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In the little book entitled " Who Wrote 
the Bible? " it was necessary to treat in an 
extremely cursory manner the several bibli- 
cal writings. In the course of ten short 
chapters the sixty-six books of the Bible all 
passed under review; but a few words re- 
specting its origin and character could be 
given to each. There appeared to be good 
reasons for taking a few of the Old Testa- 
ment books and subjecting them to a more 
careful examination. The reader of this 
volume will discover that this was done in a 
series of popular lectures. They were given 
on Sunday evenings to a thoughtful con- 
gregation. They are printed substantially 
as they were spoken; I have not greatly 
chastened the familiar and direct manner 
of speech. 

On each of these books many volumes 
have been written ; no one will expect to 
find in these brief discourses an adequate 
exposition of any of them. I have only 
wished to bring to the knowledge of those 
who heard them and of those who shall read 


them a few of the more important results of 
recent biblical study. In the Introductory 
Essay I have considered somewhat carefully 
the duty of Christian pastors with respect to 
their use of the Book from which they draw 
the substance of their teaching. 

The kindness with which the other little 
book has been received by Christians of all 
creeds, on both sides of the sea, ought to be 
here acknowledged. To a far greater extent 
than I could have expected, it has been em- 
ployed as a text book in Bible classes, and 
in assemblies of Sunday-school teachers; 
from several sources I have received skill- 
fully arranged analyses of the several chap- 
ters, with supplementary and illustrative 
suggestions, which must have added greatly 
to the value of the book in the hands of 
students. To many kind letters which have 
come to me from readers of the book I have 
been unable to reply ; let this be the testi- 
mony of my gratitude that so many have 
found in it that which satisfies their reason 
and confirms their faith in the truth which 
the Bible reveals. 


First Congregational Church, 
Columbus, Ohio, October 11, 1897 



I. Introductory 1 

II. Judges ....... 43 

III. Esther 68 

IV. Job ....... . 97 

Y. ECCLESIASTES . . ... . . 128 

VI. The Song of Songs . . . . 154 

VII. Daniel 177 

VIII. Jonah 246 



The chapters which follow are devoted to 
the study of a number of books of the Old 
Testament in which serious difficulties of 
interpretation are presented to the ordinary- 
reader. This book, like the one entitled 
" Who Wrote the Bible ? " has been written 
for the plain people ; it is not for the schol- 
ars ; they will find in it nothing which they 
do not know ; doubtless they will fail to find 
much which they deem important. Nor is 
there anything here with which intelligent 
pastors are not familiar. Most of the 
younger ones have heard all that is here pre- 
sented in the theological seminaries ; in their 
clubs and in private conversation they speak 
freely of these matters. But in their public 
ministry some of them are reticent. They 


tliink it unsafe to trust the people with the 
truth about the Bible. It is this conclusion 
of cowardice which deserves, just now, to be 
challenged and put to rout. A more base- 
less, a more dangerous theory has rarely in- 
vaded the minds of Christian teachers. The 
absurdity of it ought not to require demon- 
stration. The Bible is the book whose pur- 
pose it is to guide men unto the truth ; and 
we are saying, under our breath, that it is 
not safe to let men know the truth about the 
Bible ! If there is one book in the world 
concerning which all men are entitled to 
know the truth and the whole truth, that 
book is the Bible. If there is one book in 
the world concerning whose origin and char- 
acter there must be no concealment, no de- 
ceit, no prevarication, that book is the Bible. 
Nay, if there is one book in the world which 
can weU afford to have the whole truth about 
it told, that book is the Bible. Counsels of 
cowardice in dealing with this book are an 
insult to the book and to the Spirit of truth 
who speaks through it. If the Bible is a 
book for the people, intended to be read by 
them, and suited for their instruction, then 
they are entitled to know all the facts about 
it. They cannot use it wisely unless they 


know what kind of book it is. Concealment 
of tke trutli from tliem is liable to result in 
serious practical error. A long, dark cata- 
logue of crimes and wrongs can be traced 
directly to a misunderstanding of tbe true 
character of the Bible by men who believed 
themselves to be doing God's will. The 
murder of Servetus by the ministers of 
Geneva is explained by their erroneous view 
of the Bible. Since an infallible book justi- 
fied the extermination of the Canaanites, it 
must be right, they argued, to exterminate 
heretics. The slaughter of witches by the 
thousand was the direct result of mistaken 
views about the Bible. Massacres most foul, 
persecutions most dire, have been the fruit 
of mistaken teachings respecting the charac- 
ter of the Bible./ / It is not safe to put the 
Bible into any man's hands until you have 
told him distinctly that it is not the kind of 
book which many people suppose it to be. 
" Of crude morality," says Professor A. B. 
Bruce, " there are numerous instances in the 
Old Testament ; and no one can use it as a 
perfect guide who does not understand this." 
It was the failure to understand this which 
led to the terrible persecutions and atrocities 
of which the Church of the Middle Ages was 


guilty. " When Innocent III. was giving 
to Arnold, Abbot of Citeaux, his infamous 
advice to entrap the Count of Toulouse to 
his ruin, he appealed to Scriptural autbority 
both for his falsity and his ruthlessness. 
' We advise you,' he said, ' to use cunning 
v^^ith the Count of Toulouse, treating him with 
a wise dissimulation, that the other heretics 
may be more easily destroyed.' ' Slay them 
all,' said Arnold of Citeaux to the brutal 
Albigensian Crusaders : ' God will discrimi- 
nate his own.' We look on the Crusades 
in the light of poetry and romance ; we ad- 
mire the meekness of Godfrey of Bouillon 
in refusing to wear a crown of gold when 
his Saviour had worn a crown of thorns. 
But how did the Crusaders behave in their 
journey, in the brutal massacre of defense- 
less and unoffending Jews ? And how did 
they behave in Jerusalem itself? Happy 
the innocent women and children whose 
heads they swept off with one stroke of the 
sword, or whom they stabbed to the heart 
at a single blow ! But besides these murders 
they snatched infants from their mothers' 
arms and hurled them on the stones, or with 
horrid mutilation dashed their heads against 
sharp angles ; and they made men and boys 


marks for their archers, shooting at them till 
they leapt down the precipice ; and others 
they tortured inconceivably ; and others they 
burnt alive at slow fires. And what was 
the plea for the commission of these and 
other execrable atrocities ? The savage com- 
mands to exterminate, said to have been 
given by Moses to the rude serfs who. had 
fled from Egypt into the wilderness." ^ 
Doubtless many of these iniquities were 
justified to the minds of their perpetrators 
through a misinterpretation of Scripture; 
but many of them, also, it must be con- 
fessed, were founded upon an exact inter- 
pretation of the passages quoted, and were 
a simple reproduction of the spirit of those 
passages. What the Crusaders did was pre- 
cisely what the writer of the One Hundred 
and Thirty-Seventh Psalm wanted to do. 
They did not misinterpret him. And the 
fundamental error of many of those who 
have found warrant in the Bible for cruelty 
and oppression was not merely their failure 
to get the true meaning of the writers, but 
their failure to understand the true nature 
of the book, — their erroneous belief that the 

1 Farrar's The Bible: its Meaning and Supremacy, 
pp. 190, 191. 


Bible in all its parts is equally inspired and 
equally authoritative. That is a dangerous 
belief, as history abundantly proves. 

It is not only safe, therefore, to tell the 
people the truth about the Bible, it is very 
unsafe to conceal from them the truth, and 
to leave them under the bondage of an 
erroneous tradition. If the people are to 
handle the Bible they must know what ele- 
ments it contains, and how to discriminate 
among them. To hold that it is not safe to 
give them this knowledge is amazing fatuity. 

This is the conclusion to which an in- 
creasing number of wise and well-instructed 
Christian ministers have been gradually com- 
ing for quite a number of years. The state 
of mind in which they now find themselves 
is not one into which they have been swept 
by any sudden gust of popular opinion ; 
much less have they been seeking for reasons 
wherewith they might weaken the authority 
of the Bible ; it is the reverent and careful 
study of the Bible itself which has brought 
them to the position where now they are. 
Ever since the publication of Robertson 
Smith's Lectures on " The Old Testament 
in the Jewish Church," which, to many 
English-speaking ministers, was the first 


example of a sincere and scliolarly effort to 
make the Bible tell its own story, tliey have 
been slowly coming to the conclusion that 
the traditional theory of the Bible cannot 
be maintained and that the truth concerning 
it must be made known to the people. Yet 
the difficulty and discomfort attendant upon 
such a disclosure often deter them. The 
uprooting of such a tradition is not a wel- 
come undertaking. Pain is given to many 
devout souls; an opportunity of accusation 
and censure is afforded to those ignorant 
and jealous defenders of the faith who are 
always on the watch for error, and an occa- 
sion of stumbling is furnished to those who 
are prone to evil. I cannot wonder that 
many pastors are loath to speak frankly 
about this matter ; I myself hesitated long, 
and I know that my motives were not wholly 
unworthy. But it seems clear that the time 
for frank speaking has fully come. The 
question is up, and it must be answered, 
one way or the other; it cannot wisely or 
honestly be evaded. 

Is the traditional view of the Bible the 
true view ? That is the question which must 
be met. If Mr. Moody's theory of the Bible 
is the true theory, Mr. Moody is right in 


demanding that it be boldly and faithfully 
taught, and that no man be countenanced as a 
Christian minister who fails to teach it. If, 
on the contrary, that theory of the Bible is 
untrue, those who know it to be untrue must 
say so without fear or equivocation. Mr. 
Moody is right in insisting that between his 
theory of the Bible and that which he op- 
poses no compromise is possible. If he is 
right, the scholars against whom he is lift- 
ing up his voice are flagrantly wrong. If 
the Bible is what Mr. Moody declares that 
it is, it is not what the great majority of 
modern Biblical students and investigators 
believe it to be. It is one or the other ; it 
cannot be both. " How can absolute infalli- 
bility be blended with fallibility ? How can 
infallible truth be infallibly conveyed in de- 
fective and fallible manuscripts, in defective 
and fallible expressions, or in translations 
which are liable to every kind of error ? " ^ 

The traditional and popular theory of the 
Bible asserts that the Bible contains no 
errors of fact or doctrine ; that every part 
of it was written under immediate divine 
supervision; that it is God's book; that He is 

^ Quoted in Farrar's The Bible : its Meaning and Su- 
premacy, p. 123. 


the author of the whole of it ; that the men 
who wrote it were simply penmen, following 
his dictation; that every portion of it is 
equally sacred, equally authoritative. For 
substance, this is the theory. The theologi- 
cal refinements about the difference between 
verbal and plenary inspiration, the specula- 
tions about dynamic inspiration and the in- 
spiration of illumination, are neither known 
nor intelligible to the common people ; the 
view which they hold connotes the strongest 
implications of absolute inerrancy. They 
have been taught and they believe, what 
eminent theologians have told us, that "a 
proved error in Scripture contradicts not 
only one doctrine but the Scripture's claims, 
and therefore its inspiration in making those 

This popular theory of the Bible is, al- 
most wholly, an a priori theory. It is 
framed from men's notion of what must be, 
rather than from their investigation of what 
is. "What we need," they argue, ''is an 
infallible guide. A guide that is not infalli- 
ble cannot be trusted. If God has procured 
the writing of a book for this purpose it 
must be infallible. To say that it is not is 
to oppugn his omniscience or his goodness." 


This is the process of reasoning by which 
the theory of an infallible book is mainly 
supported. It rests upon the assumption 
that men can tell beforehand what God 
would do. 

It does not rest on any claim which the 
Bible makes for itself. There is no such 
claim. In the nature of the case there can 
be none. For so far as we are able to dis- 
cover, not one of those men whose writings 
have been gathered together in the collection 
which we name the Bible had any concep- 
tion, when he was writing, that his work 
would form part of such a compilation. He 
wrote to supply some immediate need of 
those whom he knew ; the idea that he was 
writing part of what we call a Bible did not 
occur to him. At any rate no intimation 
appears of such a consciousness. How then 
could any one of the writers of this book 
have claimed inerrancy for the whole book, 
since the existence of such a book was not 
conceived by any of them ? If the claim of 
inerrancy for the whole Bible is set up, in 
the Bible, it must, in the nature of the case, 
be set up by each writer for his own writ- 
ings. But in fact no such claim is made by 
any of them. 


It is true that the New Testament writers 
refer to the Old Testament writings, which 
in their day had been gathered into a some- 
what indefinite collection, and sometimes 
speak of them with strong approval. It is 
not true, however, that they guarantee the 
inerrancy of all these writings. The text 
which has so long done duty in suj)port of 
the proposition was mistranslated. It is not 
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of 
God and is profitable for doctrine ; " it is 
" Every Scripture inspired of God is also 
profitable for teaching." So runs the Revised 
Version. To make this cover a claim for 
the inerrancy of all the Old Testament writ- 
ings is greatly to stretch its obvious mean- 
ing. But if the New Testament writers 
cannot be quoted as guaranteeing the iner- 
rancy of the Old Testament writings, much 
less can they be called as witnesses to prove 
the infallibility of that portion of the Bible 
which they themselves contributed; for of 
the future use which was to be made of their 
narratives and letters they do not seem to 
have dreamed. There is no word, therefore, 
in the Bible, in which a claim of inerrancy, 
covering the whole Bible, is set up. 

Not only so, but the Bible itself, as we 


have it in our hands, is all the while crying 
out to us that it is not the kind of book 
which tradition represents it to be. On al- 
most every page some evidence appears that 
a literal exactitude of expression has not 
been thought of ; that we have the work of 
men who were not at all concerned about 
verbal or literal inerrancy. If any words 
ought to have been infallibly reported they 
are the words of Jesus Christ, but no two of 
the Evangelists give us a verbally identical 
report of what He said. If Matthew re- 
ported Him with absolute accuracy, Mark 
and Luke did not. " Take the words in 
which Christ instituted the Last Supper, 
and his last words to his disciples before his 
ascension, and the inscription on the cross, 
and the Lord's Prayer. Amid perfect unity 
of substance there is no identity in the verbal 
details, but omissions, additions, and verbal 
variations ; and in St. Luke and St. Mat- 
thew we have variant records even of the 
Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount." ^ 
The quotations made by the New Testa- 
ment writers from the Old Testament writ- 
ings show how little they esteemed this 

1 Farrar's The Bible: its Meaning and Supremacy, 
p. 110. 


doctrine of inerrancy. Very often they give 
the substance of what they quote but change 
the form of it considerably ; most often they 
use the Septuagint, the Greek translation of 
the Old Testament, which is a faulty version, 
often inaccurate, sometimes misleading. 

In many such ways the Bible makes haste 
to disclaim for itself that character of ab- 
solute inerrancy with which modern biblio- 
laters have sought to invest it. No intelli- 
gent person who will dismiss from his mind 
all the notions concerning the Bible which 
have been supplied to him from tradition and 
a priori reasoning, and will let the Bible 
tell him its own story, can ever derive from 
an inductive study of its pages the dogma 
of Biblical infallibility. It is this careful 
study of the Bible, and nothing else, which 
has resulted in rendering incredible the 
dogma of Biblical infallibility. 

But what have we in place of this dogma ? 
We have the doctrine of a book which is 
a precious depository of divine truth, — of 
truth contained in no other book ; and be- 
yond comparison more valuable than that 
contained in any other book ; a book which 
gives us a revelation of God infinitely more 
perfect than any other sacred writings have 


given us, since it records for us the life and 
words of Jesus Christ, who is, in the high- 
est sense, the manifestation of God ; and 
shows us the preparation for his mission and 
the beginning of the great consummation 
which we pray for when we say " Thy king- 
dom come." To one who believes that no 
event of history can be compared, for mo- 
mentousness, with the advent of Jesus Christ 
upon this planet, it is not necessary to prove 
that the book which tells the story of the 
life of Jesus Christ and reports for us the 
substance of what He said is not to be ranked 
with other books ; that it occupies a place 
apart, and is worthy to be called the Book 
of books. It is easy, also, for one who re- 
gards Jesus Christ as the central personality 
of human history, to see that many records 
of the Bible which precede his advent, as 
well as those which follow his ascension, are 
so closely connected with Him as to glow with 
his light and pulsate with his life. That 
these records are, in the main, veracious, 
is not to be gainsaid ; no theory which treats 
the Bible as a tissue of pious frauds is under 
discussion here. The transcendent value of 
our Bible is not in this place disputed. He 
who says that it is no more than any other 


good book does not express the mind of 
those devout critics who insist that the truth 
about it must be told. To them it is much 
more than any other book, and it is pre- 
cisely because it is so much more to them 
than any other book can be that they de- 
mand that it shall be honestly treated, that 
no lies shall be told about it, and no extrava- 
gant and untenable claims made for it ; that 
the people shall be taught to take it for 
what it is and to use it as it ought to be 
used, with reverential trust but with rational 
discrimination of its parts. The great words 
with which Richard Hooker ends the second 
book of his " Ecclesiastical Polity " must 
be laid to heart : " Whatsoever is spoken of 
God or things pertaining to God otherwise 
than truth is, though it seem an honor, it is 
an injury. And as incredible praises given 
unto men do often abate and impair the 
credit of their deserved commendation, so 
we must likewise take great heed, lest, in 
attributing to Scripture more than it can 
have, the incredibility of that do cause even 
those things which it hath more abundantly 
to be less reverently esteemed." Such is 
the grave disservice which many of its super- 
serviceable friends are now rendering to the 


Bible. "The attempt," says Mackennal, 
" to attach a name of special sanctity to all 
the contents of the Bible ends in the degra- 
dation of that name itself." The worst 
enemies of the Bible in this land to-day are 
some of its most orthodox champions. 

That these are, in a true sense. Sacred 
Writings, and that they contain a revela- 
tion from God found nowhere else in litera- 
ture, is the belief of the writer of this book. 
There is treasure here, beyond price. The 
only question is whether, like every other 
treasure of God bequeathed to man, it is 
contained in an earthen vessel. Is there a 
human element in the Bible ? In an im- 
portant sense it is God's book ; is it in any 
sense man's book ? That men had some- 
thing to do with the writing of it is not 
denied, but how much ? Were they only 
passive instruments in the hand of God, — 
writing machines used by Him, — or did 
their own thought and feeling find utterance 
in these words ? If the Bible does contain a 
human element, it must contain imperfec- 
tion. If men's thoughts and feelings do 
find expression in it, more or less of error 
and defective moral judgment must be looked 
for. What are the facts? What does a 


reverent study of the Bible show us? Is 
this an earthen vessel ? Are there no traces 
of human error and imperfection in the 
medium through which this revelation is 
conveyed to us ? 

One who starts with the assumption of 
Biblical inerrancy is, of course, disabled 
for such an investigation. He assumes the 
thing to be proved. He holds that because 
this is God's book it cannot contain any 
admixture of error. He thinks that to ques- 
tion the accuracy of any statement, whether 
historical or scientific, is to impugn the 
veracity of the Spirit of truth. If he finds 
on one page a contradiction of what is 
written on another, he shuts his eyes and de- 
nies that such a contradiction exists. That 
which is infallible is beyond the judgment 
of the human intellect. A man who begins 
with the theory that the Bible is infallible 
deprives himself at the outset of the right 
of forming or expressing any opinion con- 
cerning the accuracy or inaccuracy of any 
statement which it contains. In the pre- 
sence of such an assumption the human 
reason is paralyzed. 

Those who do not make this sweeping 
assumption, and who suppose that our rea- 


son must be used in judging the Bible as 
well as in " trying the spirits," cannot fail 
to discover, in a reverent study of the Bible, 
many evidences of human error and imper- 
fection. They are here, — palpable, unde- 
niable ; and it is fatuous to ignore them or 
explain them away. The treasure is in 
earthen vessels. The a priori theory that a 
book of God must be errorless is shattered 
by an inductive investigation of the Bible 
itself. The men who wrote these books 
were not infallible men, and they were not 
supernaturally protected against error. 

What is it that we find when we rever- 
ently study these ancient writings ? 

We find, to begin with, indubitable evi- 
dence that many of them are of a composite 
character, made up of documents which 
have been pieced together not always skill- 
fully, since they sometimes overlap, and 
sometimes show wide gaps in the narrative. 
That several of the Old Testament books 
are thus constructed is scarcely denied, in 
these days, by any respectable scholars. One 
of the latest of the conservative writers is 
willing to rank among the orthodox.^ " schol- 
ars who have conceded that Genesis discloses 
evidences of older documentary and tradi- 


tional authorities, in narratives and snatches 
of poetry, and genealogical tables, and who 
admit different layers of legislation in the 
middle books of the Pentateuch, not neces- 
sarily committed to writing by Moses ; who, 
for example, grant that Deuteronomy is a 
separate book, completed in its present form 
after the death of Moses, that the priest 
code is from a different hand, and that 
Genesis is a fusion of different elements." ^ 
But a book which has been constructed 
after this manner cannot be the kind of 
book which the people believe in. It is 
absurd to conceive of Omniscience gleaning 
up fragments of old human documents and 
joining them together after this fashion. 
Still less conceivable is it that the work 
should have been done by Omniscience in 
that manner in which, as we shall plainly 
see, it has been done in Joshua and Judges. 
Some of the conservatives make merry over 
the analysis by the Higher Critics of the 
documents into the four original sources, 
and it must be admitted that much of this 
work seems fanciful in the extreme ; but let 
these conservative teachers take pains to 
point out to their congregations such pal- 

^ Behrends's The Old Testament under Fire, p. 103. 


pable facts as are contained in the last chap- 
ters of Joshua and the first chapters of 
Judges, and reconcile them with the theory 
that Omniscience is responsible for the au- 
thorship of these books. Such facts as these 
require explanation. They do not militate 
against the belief that the record is, on the 
whole, true and valuable ; but they show 
that it was put together by men who were 
human enough to make mistakes ; and they 
effectually dispose of the theory that a super- 
human freedom from error was conferred 
upon all Biblical writers. 

We find, also, that the Bible contains a 
considerable element of religious fiction. 
That the books of Esther and Daniel and 
Jonah belong in this class of literature will 
be made evident, I trust, in the following 
studies. The uses of such fiction are mani- 
fest, and the great ethical and spiritual 
value of some of these ancient stories will 
appear ; but as soon as we have recognized 
the true character of these writings, the 
standards by which we judge them must be 
changed. We are no longer burdened with 
proofs of the historicity of imaginative tales ; 
our attention may rest upon the lessons 
which they are intended to convey. 


Most important of all is the discovery 
whicli must be made by candid students of 
tbe Old Testament, that these Scriptures 
represent a moral development, whose ear- 
lier stages connote an imperfect morality. 
It is not enough to say that evil deeds and 
bad characters are faithfully portrayed ; con- 
duct which falls far below the morality of 
the New Testament is sympathetically de- 
scribed; the writers admire and approve 
actions which the law of Christ expressly 
condemns. These men of the olden time 
sometimes claim the divine authority for 
the performance of deeds which directly 
contravene the elementary principles of mo- 
rality ; they represent God as commanding 
men to commit the most abominable crimes. 
It is not true that these atrocities are com- 
mon in the Old Testament : other elements 
prevail in all these ancient records, and the 
humanity and compassion which they reveal 
are signs of the Divine Spirit working out 
in the customs and laws of Israel a large 
and genial morality ; but mingled with all 
this are the survivals of old barbarisms, 
which still darken the lives of the people 
and color the judgments of the writers of 
these Scriptures. There can be no doubt 


that Moses believed himself to be com- 
manded by God to order the extermination 
of all the Midianites ; that he supposed 
himself to be righteously indignant when 
the warriors spared the women and chil- 
dren ; and that the compromise made with 
the warriors by which they were finally 
required to kill all the captive males old 
and young, and the married women, but 
were permitted to keep for themselves the 
unmarried women, represents the ideas of 
morality which were current in those days. 
We must believe, however, that the writer 
was mistaken when he represented that all 
this was done under the command of Je- 
hovah. And when the writer of the book 
of Deuteronomy recites a law requiring the 
Israelites utterly to destroy every living 
thing in the neighboring cities which they 
were about to besiege and capture, — "to 
save nothing alive that breathe th ; " and 
when Samuel gives orders to Saul going 
forth against the Amalekites, to " slay both 
man and woman, infant and suckling, ox 
and sheep, camel and ass," we must sup- 
pose that this does not really represent the 
mind of the Spirit. Doubtless the people 
who did these things believed that they 


were doing God's will ; but when the writ- 
ers that record their doings explicitly tell 
us that they were acting under the divine 
direction, we know that the writers must be 
mistaken. There is nothing else to say 
about it ; excuses, evasions, palliations are 
not only futile, they are an insult to com- 
mon sense. That the moral standards of 
these Old Testament writers are sometimes 
low and defective is truth that no honest 
man must deny. It is not merely true that 
they describe for us unworthy actions : it is 
true that they sometimes justify and com- 
mend unworthy actions. 

Now all this, which the careful student of 
the Bible is sure to find, must be distinctly 
told to all the people. It is quite contrary 
to what they have been commonly taught 
respecting the Bible, but it is the truth, and 
they need to know it. The composite char- 
acter of many of these writings ; the way in 
which they are pieced together, out of older 
documents ; the fact that some of them are 
undoubtedly works of fiction ; the fact that 
amidst all that is pure and benign in their 
teachings there are elements of crude and 
imperfect morality, — commands attributed 
to God, which He could never have given, — 


all this the minister of the gospel in these 
days is bound to teach his people. When 
this has been clearly taught he may proceed 
to settle his account with the Higher Critics, 
but not till then. After he has shown his 
people the truth respecting these most pal- 
pable results of modern Biblical study, he 
may hew Wellhausen in pieces before the 
Lord, as Samuel hewed Agag. But per- 
haps, by that time, there will be less need 
of the immolation. 

For myself I am not disposed to deny 
that much which has been given out by the 
Higher Critics appears to be far-fetched and 
fanciful. The minute analysis of the Hexa- 
teuch which some of them have set before us 
does not commend itself to my credence. 
And many of their conjectures respecting 
dates and divisions of documents appear to 
me untenable. But this is the history of 
every science. Always the atmosphere of 
active scientific research is full of visionary 
guesses and wild hypotheses. All sorts of 
theories are put forth tentative^, to chal- 
lenge attention and to await verification. 
For some of these, foundations of fact are 
finally supplied ; many of them quickly 
perish. The science of Biblical Criticism 


must pass through the same vicissitudes. 
Many conjectures have been ventured for 
which sufficient evidence has not been 
found. But not a few hypotheses have 
been abundantly verified. The assured re- 
sults of this work are now considerable. If 
some of the students who have been explor- 
ing this field have seemed less reverent than 
could have been desired, and if some have 
even exhibited a disposition to discredit the 
Scriptures, there has still been a large num- 
ber of devout and careful men to whom the 
Bible is a sacred book, and who are not dis- 
posed to admit any new theory respecting 
its origin for which there is not ample proof. 
The patient studies of these reverent scholars 
have made some things very plain. And 
those who adversely discuss the Higher 
Criticism are bound to bring out these well- 
established results, and make them clear to 
the minds of those to whom they speak. It 
is easy to make a large and impressive ex- 
hibit of the things that have not been proven 
and that probably never will be proven by 
the Higher Critics, and thus, by implication, 
to cast discredit upon all their work ; there 
is no branch of science which cannot easily, 
in this way, be rendered ridiculous in the 


eyes of the uninstructed. Any expert rhe- 
torician could take the subject of chemistry 
or electricity and gather up the visionary 
and exploded hypotheses concerning it, and 
hold them up to ridicule, and make a great 
many ignorant people believe that they are 
pseudo-sciences ; that there is nothing in 
them but unmitigated nonsense. We have 
had a good deal of this kind of work, in our 
pulpits and newspapers, from those who 
have sought to discredit the Higher Criti- 
cism. It is very effective work ; the igno- 
rance and prejudice to which appeal is made 
are highly responsive to such incitement ; 
and one can without difficulty win great ap- 
plause as a defender of the faith ; but it be- 
comes, now and then, a serious question just 
how much popular applause a public teacher 
can safely allow himself. And it may be 
well to suggest that those who undertake 
the public discussion of the Higher Criticism 
ought to give some attention not merely to 
its failures, but also to its admitted suc- 
cesses. If with a sincere disposition to 
know the truth they will try to inform them- 
selves respecting the points which have been 
fairly settled by these studies, and if with 
entire candor they will lay these results be- 


fore their hearers, they may then, with pro- 
priety, expose the vagaries of Biblical science. 
But when the clear gains of criticism have 
been laid before the people, the traditional 
theory of the Bible will have passed from 
the earth ; and the teachers will find enough 
to do in furnishing to their congregations 
a new working theory, by means of which 
these sacred writings may be firmly held 
and profitably used. 

What, then, shall wise pastors tell their 
people concerning this book, and the manner 
in which they may use it ? It is safe to tell 
them that the book is a revelation from 
God, since it contains the record of the Life 
that is the light of men ; and gives us the 
history of the providential preparation of 
the world for his manifestation, and the 
narrative of the planting and training of 
his Church. It is not an infallible book ; 
but it is a book in which life and immor- 
tality are brought to light ; it is the one 
book of all the world which clearly shows 
men what life means, and what are the true 
relations of the life that now is to the life 
that is to come. To say that all parts of it 
are equally inspired and equally authorita- 
tive is to make a foolish assertion ; but it is 


not difficult for those who will seek divine 
guidance to find it in the truth which will 
make them wise unto salvation. Without 
the guidance of the Spirit of truth, the 
Bible is no better than any other book ; with 
that guidance no man will go astray in his 

To those who believe that the Incarnation 
is the central fact of human history, the 
words of Christ must be the master words 
of this literature and of all literature. In 
these we have a standard by which all these 
writings must be judged. Whatever in any 
part of this book agrees with " these say- 
ings " of his we may safely accept as divine 
truth ; whatever contradicts or conflicts with 
his teachings we may regard as a partial 

Yet it must not be inferred that those 
portions of the Bible in which the revelation 
is partial and the morality imperfect are of 
no use to us. They are of great value. 
They show us the stages through which 
religion and morality have passed ; they 
illustrate for us the ethical and spiritual 
development of the human race. And just 
as embryology shows us that all human 
beings pass through every form of lower 


life to reach the human form divine, so we, 
in our moral development, often find our- 
selves facing the same problems which an- 
cient Israel was forced to confront, and the 
history is full of instruction for us. Those 
naive biographies, also, which bring the 
ancient men so vividly before us, never 
concealing their weaknesses and crimes, are 
profitable for instruction in righteousness. 
Abraham and Joseph and Moses and Joshua 
and Samuel and David, as they appear in 
this literature, have guided the aims and in- 
vigorated the courage of many generations 
of Bible readers. We must, indeed, be on 
our guard against accepting all the judg- 
ments of the writers of these sketches ; for 
sometimes, as we have seen, they recount 
with evident approbation deeds that are not 
worthy of our praise ; but in far the larger 
number of cases the judgment as it stands 
is true, and needs no correction in the light 
of Christian standards. There are even 
Psalms in the Hebrew Psalter whose senti- 
ment no Christian can utter ; but the greater 
number of them give wings to our faith and 
adoration ; how many of our loftiest thoughts 
and noblest purposes have found voice in 
these hymns of the olden times ! And the 


great prophecies — how constantly do they 
lift up the loftiest standards before men and 
nations ! Verily the truth is here in these 
ancient Scriptures, and it is for us to sepa- 
rate it from the error with which it is min- 
gled. And that is by no means an improb- 
able task. The Spirit of all truth who 
speaks to us through these Scriptures waits 
to guide us in all our study of them. He is 
as near to honest and reverent souls to-day 
as ever He was ; and his illiuninating ray 
will make all these doubtful things plain. 
Dean Farrar's wise words are worth repeat- 

"If it be asked, How then are we to 
know what is the word of God contained in 
Scripture ? or if it be argued that it is im- 
possible to disintegrate the word of God 
from the word of man, the answer is that 
this is exactly what Christians have already 
had to do again and again. They have 
been thrown, just as the Jews were, on the 
ordinary means of criticism and spiritual 
discernment to discover what entire books 
did, and what did not, deserve the title of 
canonical ; and their decision has repeatedly 
shown itself to be fallible. To this day the 
millions of the Roman Church accept as 


canonical books of the Apocrypha, some 
of which fall far below the level of many 
writings both heathen and Christian. For 
some centuries books were admitted into the 
canon which are now excluded from it, or 
books excluded from it which are now ad- 
mitted to belong to it. The question ' How 
then are we to recognize the word of God ? ' 
is an entirely faithless one. We recognize 
it precisely as the Christian Church has 
always done. All Christians have set aside 
large sections of the Old Testament as be- 
longing to an abrogated dispensation. They 
even treat some passages of the New Testa- 
ment as not binding on them in the letter. 
They set aside no small part of Scripture as 
having been relative and transient. They 
recognize that the Tabernacle was a glorious 
symbol, but do not find anything which 
specially reaches them in long chapters about 
its upholstery and joinery, 'its boxes and 
tables and rings and lamps and loops and 
bowls and curtains and candlesticks and ram 
skins and badger skins and pans and shovels 
and basins and clothes ' — quite irrespective 
of the question whether they emanated from 
Moses, or whether, as many critics suppose, 
they are not much older than the era of the 


Exile. In spite of the Council of Jerusalem, 
which claimed the direction of the Holy 
Spirit, they do not abstain from blood or 
from things strangled. In spite of St. 
James, they do not anoint the sick with oil. 
If they were not constantly falling into the 
error of forgetting that Christ is ' alive f or- 
evermore,' — if they believed his promise 
that the Spirit should lead them unto all 
essential truth, they would not try to de- 
throne Him and set up a book in his place. 
Is it indeed the case that we have nothing 
to guide us with certainty about the way 
of salvation, unless we put a genealogy of 
Chronicles or a chapter of Numbers or 
Esther on the same level as the Sermon on 
the Mount ? Did not St. John tell us to try 
the spirits ? Did not St. Paul say, ' Prove 
all things ; hold fast that which is good ' ? 
Did not our Lord ask ' Why even of your- 
selves judge ye not what is right?' 'To 
those who follow their reason in the inter- 
pretation of the Scriptures,' said Lord Falk- 
land, ' God will either give his grace, or 
assistance to find the truth, or his pardon if 
they miss it.' ' If after using diligence to find 
truths we fall into error, when the Scriptures 
are not plain,' said Chillingworth, ' there is 


no danger in it. They that err and they 
that do not err shall both be saved.' " ^ 

But some cautious teachers who admit ail 
that has been urged are yet fearful of the 
results which may follow the abandonment, 
by the people, of the dogma of Biblical infal- 
libility. The Bible, they say, has been the 
great promoter of social and national well- 
being. The lands where the Bible has been 
read and honored are the lands that are hap- 
py and prosperous and free. The Queen of 
England was speaking advisedly when she 
told the Indian prince that the Bible was 
the source of England's greatness. And 
will not the change which now is passing 
upon the opinions of Christians respecting 
the character of the Bible so weaken its au- 
thority that we shall lose all these precious 
fruits of its influence ? Will the Bible 
which criticism now offers us have the power 
to lead and mould, to leaven and control 
society, which the Bible of the last thi'ee 
centuries has wielded ? 

The question is one that calls for serious 
reply. In the first place, it must be ad- 
mitted that it was not the error and the 
imperfect morality of the Bible which gave 

^ The Bible : its Meaning and Supremacy, pp. 127-129. 


it the kind of power referred to. It was 
not tlie human elements which it contains, 
nor the partialness and defectiveness of its 
revelation which gave it the hold that it has 
had upon the life of the Protestant nations. 
So far as these errors have been taken for 
truths, and this imperfect morality has been 
accepted as perfect morality, so far the in- 
fluence of the Bible must have been impaired. 
It must be better to recognize defects, even 
in the Bible, as defects, than to mistake 
them for excellences. 

Nor could it have been the simple belief 
that the Bible is infallible which has wrought 
all these beneficent wonders. A mere intel- 
lectual conviction of that kind, even if it is in 
accordance with fact, has no practical value. 
A man may believe every article of the most 
orthodox creed and be no better for it. But 
if we now clearly see that the Bible is not 
infallible, the belief in its infallibility must 
have been an erroneous belief. Shall we say 
that the moral progress which has been so 
closely connected with the Bible is the fruit 
of an erroneous belief? Shall we say that 
the only way to secure a continuance of this 
progress is to exhort the people to hold fast 
to an opinion which is palpably unsound ? 


In truth, it is not the belief of the people 
in the inerrancy of the Bible which has 
brought forth this precious fruit ; it is their 
belief of the truth which the Bible reveals'. 
It is the belief in Jesus Christ and in his gos- 
pel ; the acceptance of the truth He taught ; 
the faithful following of the life He lived, 
which has made the desert to rejoice and the 
wilderness to blossom as the rose. It is the 
outflowing into the world of the truth and 
love of which the Bible is full that has done 
all this glorious work for mankind. That 
truth and love are there to-day ; not one jot 
or tittle has been taken from them, nor can 
be ; they can speak for themselves, and will 
speak ; nay, it is not within the power of man 
to silence them. To recognize the fact that 
the vessel is partly earthen does not dim the 
lustre of the treasure it contains ; it rather 
enhances it. To admit that Esther exhibits 
a low morality does not deprive the book of 
Isaiah of any of its glorious meaning, nor cast 
any stigma upon the noble philosophy of Job. 
To admit that the One Hundred and Ninth 
Psalm is the utterance of a dark spirit does 
not rob the Twenty-Third Psalm of any of 
its uplifting consolation. If the Light of 
the world is in that book it will continue to 


shine ; no speculations of man can cloud its 

It is, however, probable that the deepest 
reason for the reluctance of some to aban- 
don the dogma of Biblical infallibility has 
not yet been mentioned. That is the notion 
that some kind of infallible guide is neces- 
sary in religion ; that it is quite impossible 
for us to live worthily or to teach correctly, 
or to maintain and propagate the institutions 
of religion, unless we have some standard 
or authority to which we may make appeal, 
whose decisions are errorless and final. This 
is the fundamental assumption of Roman 
Catholic philosophy ; it has resulted in the 
erection of an infallible church, over which 
an infallible Pope now rules. When the 
Reformers abandoned the infallible church 
they still retained the fundamental assump- 
tion on which it was based and substituted for 
a Church a Book. It is now about time to 
see that the fundamental assumption is all 
wrong ; that no infallible rule in religion is 
either desirable or possible. We want guid- 
ance, instruction, help ; we do not want any 
form of words which can be pointed to as 
fixed, changeless, absolute truth, to which 
nothing can be added, and from which no- 


tiling can be subtracted. We do not need 
it, and we cannot have it. We cannot have 
it because words are not fixed symbols ; they 
change their meaning as men change ; a 
phrase which meant one thing five hundred 
years ago may mean something quite differ- 
ent to-day. An infallible revelation cannot 
be committed to such a fluctuating medium 
as language is. And there are certain pecul- 
iarities of the languages in which the Bible 
was written — the Hebrew language espe- 
cially — which render this conception of an 
inerrant revelation a simple absurdity to 
any one who knows anything about them.^ 

But such a fixed and infallible revelation 
is not only precluded by the very nature of 
language, it does not conform to the laws of 
the spiritual realm. We are always dealing, 
in this realm, with the phenomena of life 
and growth, and infallibility is a conception 
which is wholly inapplicable to anything that 
lives and grows. It is a purely mechanical 
idea ; it has nothing to do with the phenom- 
ena of life ; it belongs in quite another or- 
der. There are no infallible spring beauties, 
crocuses, elm-trees, ears of corn. There is 
what we may consider an ideal, a type, for 

^ See Who Wrote the Bible ? chap. xii. 


all these organisms; but that is something 
purely intellectual, — something that no man 
ever saw. Some organisms come nearer to 
the imagined type than others; but abso- 
lute perfection of structure and form does 
not exist. There is alwaj^s room for im- 
provement. Nothing into which God has 
breathed his life is infallible. Nothing that 
grows is even for one moment infallible ; the 
very condition of progress makes a fixed 
standard inconceivable. Infallibility may 
be predicated of a watch or a rifle or a cash 
register, — not of a fruit tree or a field of 
grain or a human life. Your artist will tell 
you that he has never seen a perfect face ; 
your oculist that he has never seen a perfect 
eye. And when we pass into the spiritual 
realm the very law of the highest life involves 
perpetual movement forward from the less to 
the greater, from one degree of virtue and 
attainment to another. Knowledge must 
always grow from more to more, and our 
ideals themselves, the very norms of charac- 
ter, must change and enlarge as experience 
widens. Robert Browning has shown us the 
true philosophy of spiritual life : — 

" By such confession straight he falls 
Into man's place, a thing nor God nor beast, 


Made to know that he can know, and not more : 

Lower than God who knows all and can all, 

Higher than Jieasts which know and can so far 

As each beasfs limit, perfect to an end, 

Nor conscious that they know, nor craving- more ; 

While man knows partly and conceives beside, 

Creeps ever on from fancies to the fact, 

And in this striving, this converting air 

Into a solid he may grasp and use. 

Finds progress, man's distinctive mark alone. 

Not God's and not the beasts' ; God is, they are, 

Man partly is and wholly hopes to be. 

Such progress could no more attend his soul 

Were all it struggles after found at first 

And guesses changed to knowledge absolute, 

Than motion wait his body, were all else 

Than it the solid earth on every side, 

Where now through space he moves from rest to rest. 

Man, therefore, thus conditioned, must expect 

He could not, what he knows now, know at first ; 

What he considers that he knows to-day 

Gone but to-morrow he will find misknown ; 

Getting increase of knowledge, since he learns 

Because he lives, which is to be a man. 

Set to instruct himseK by his past self ; 

First, like the brute, obliged by facts to learn. 

Next as man may, obliged by his own mind, 

Bent, habit, nature, knowledge turned to law. 

God's gift was that man should conceive of truth, 

And yearn to gain it, catching at mistake 

As midway help till he reach fact indeed." 

If this is the true philosophy of human 
development, then it is evident enough that a 
precise and inflexible rule of life is the very 


thing that man does not want. " Forgetting 
the things which are behind, stretching for- 
ward to the things which are before " — this 
is the posture of the spiritual mind. All 
our thoughts about the spiritual life, all our 
ideas of conduct and character, must conform 
to this fundamental fact. Rigid and inflex- 
ible formularies are not to be desired. The 
revelation which we need from God is not 
an infallible rule, applicable to all condi- 
tions of life and grades of intelligence ; it is 
rather a path of light through the ages, giv- 
ing us direction, but leaving us free, in the 
light of great principles, to settle for our- 
selves the problems of every hour, and of 
every generation. Such a guide the Bible 
is. When we use it as it was meant to be 
used we find wise guidance and safe con- 
duct through life ; we have a lamp for our 
feet and a light to our path. When we take 
its every word as an infallible rule of life 
it makes us often bigots, not seldom perse- 
cutors, sometimes murderers. The letter 
killeth ; the spirit giveth life. Strange that 
with such a solemn warning speaking al- 
ways to us out of the Bible itself, we should 
have chained ourselves so long to the dogma 
of verbal inerrancy I The very thing which 


the apostle tells us is fatal to the life of 
faith is the thing which we have insisted on 
as the corner-stone of orthodoxy. 

Let us trust that the times of this igno- 
rance are now well past. We are learning 
to free ourselves from the bondage of the 
letter. Having found that God has not 
given us an infallible Book, it is beginning 
to dawn on us that He never meant to give 
us any such thing ; that all his plans for our 
spiritual education would have been de- 
feated if He had done it. But we do believe 
that He has given us, in his good providence, 
a book of peculiar worth, a book out of 
which we may learn more concerning Him 
and his kingdom of righteousness and love 
than from all the rest of the books in the 
world ; a book which tells us many of the 
things which it is of the utmost consequence 
that we should know, and which are found 
nowhere else ; a book which it becomes us 
to study reverently and patiently, penetrat- 
ing below the letter that killeth to the spirit 
that giveth life. 

The familiar discourses which follow may 
serve to illustrate, in part, the principles af- 
firmed in this introductory essay. They are 
the endeavors of a busy pastor, who makes 


no claim to high scholarship, to show his 
people some of the more sure results of re- 
cent Biblical study. The books selected are 
confessedly among the most difficult books 
of the Old Testament, — those in which the 
conclusions of modern scholarship diverge 
most widely from the traditional theory. 
I trust it will appear that after the results 
of candid critical investigation have all been 
accepted, we have something left, even in 
these puzzling books, of real spiritual value. 
I will even hope that this new way of look- 
ing at them may impart to some of them a 
deeper reality and larger significance than 
they ever had before. 



Out o£ the thirty-nine books of the Old 
Testament, seven have been selected for 
study in the familiar discourses which fol- 

To two classes of persons I trust that 
these discourses will be especially service- 
able. The first class includes those who 
reject some or all of these books as worth- 
less, finding them rather stumbling-blocks 
than helps to faith, and discovering in them 
reasons for the rejection of the entire Bible. 
I hope to show these skeptics that their judg- 
ment is hasty and superficial; that these 
books, though not, perhaps, what they have 
sometimes been represented to be, are, when 
you handle them intelligently, of great value, 
capable of giving us instruction and inspi- 

The other class consists of those who re- 
gard the Bible as a book equally inspired in 
all its parts, every sentence of which was 


dictated by the Holy Spirit, the whole of 
which is therefore equally inerrant and au- 
thoritative. I hope to make it plain to these 
persons that this view of the Bible is unten- 

I shall be asked why I indulge this hope. 
I shall be told that I ought to leave them in 
peace with the traditional theory ; that it is 
no kindness to them to disturb a belief which 
gives them comfort. My answer is, that it 
is far better for them to know the truth. 
The view which they are entertaining cannot 
be held in these days by any fairly well-in- 
formed man without constantly doing vio- 
lence to his intelligence and his integrity. 
The errors, the contradictions, the moral im- 
perfections which appear in some of these 
books, which thrust themselves before every 
wakeful reader, and to which the attention 
of the whole world has been sharply called 
by modern investigation, must be met and 
accounted for by the advocate of Biblical 
infallibility. His task is to explain them 
away. It is a large undertaking. In prose- 
cuting it, his intellectual integrity and his 
moral honesty are likely to suffer a serious 
strain. He is compelled to resort to evasions 
and subterfuges of argument which are not 


good for the character of any man. Often 
he silences his reason by throwing back upon 
the Scripture itseK the whole burden of the 
absurdity, and pleading that such things 
are inherent in a revelation. There is a 
story of a lad who was reading the narra- 
tive, in the second book of Samuel, of the 
woman bathing on the housetop. Never 
having seen a house without a peaked roof, 
he was troubled by the apparent improba- 
bility, and so expressed himself to his father. 
"Hush, my son !" solemnly whispered the 
devout parent, " with man it is impossible, 
but with God all things are possible." The 
story not inaptly describes a kind of intel- 
lectual abjectness which men are wont to 
display in the presence of the Bible. Not 
only, as in this case, do they make mysteries 
when there are none, but they are free to 
assume that not only mysteries, but mistakes, 
contradictions, preposterous absurdities, are 
possible with God ; that when we find them 
lying on the face of one of these books of 
Scripture we must accept them as divine 
verities ; that the refusal to do so dishonors 
God, because this is God's book. Such a 
practice is morally injurious in a high de- 
gree. If any man thinks he approves him- 


self to God when he does violence to his 
reason and his moral sense, he gravely 
misconceives God's character. If any man 
thinks he is honoring God when he insists 
on attributing to Him the ignorance and 
superstition of man which we find in these 
ancient writings, he needs to revise his the- 

It is, therefore, in the definite expectation 
of important moral gains to those who take 
part in them that these studies are under- 
taken. That some may perversely use the 
truth here brought to light is not to be de- 
nied ; no truth is so high or so precious that 
depraved minds will not turn it into a savor 
of death unto death. That risks are in- 
curred in the telling of any truth is a fact 
which we cannot hide from ourselves. But, 
after all, there can be no worse moral evil 
than insincerity ; no more deadly peril in 
handling the Bible than that which is in- 
curred by those who conceal the truth about 
it ; no greater irreverence than that which 
imputes to God the blind judgments and 
moral crudities of men. 

With the sincere wish that we may be 
preserved from these perils, and not less 
from rash speculations and overbold assump- 


tions, let us turn to the study of these an- 
cient Scriptures. The independent study of 
these seven books is a perfectly legitimate 
proceeding, for they are independent books. 
There is, as we have seen, no evidence that 
any one of the writers of these thirty-nine 
books of the Old Testament knew or ima- 
gined, when he was writing his book, that it 
would be included, with many others, in a 
collection to be called the Bible. This col- 
lection was not made by prophets nor in- 
spired men ; the question what books should 
be taken in and what left out was settled by 
men who could lay no claim to supernatural 
guidance. I am not, however, questioning 
the selection. Some of these books are 
worth more than others, but there is none 
that we can now afford to spare. Some of 
those which have been great stumbling- 
blocks to faith are full of instruction for us 
when we rightly use them. The point to be 
observed now is, that we have here not a 
continuous literary production, but a col- 
lection of books ; " The Divine Library," 
Canon Kilpatrick calls it. And it is, there- 
fore, legitimate to select from among these 
any which we may desire for separate study. 
First upon the list of those which we have 


thus selected is the book of Judges. The 
book has in the Hebrew Bible the same title, 
" Shophetim," which is the plural of the 
word meaning judge. It purports to be a 
history of the Israelitish people during the 
period which intervenes between the death 
of Joshua and the commonwealth under Eli 
and Samuel. Both of the two last named 
were regarded as judges, but their jurisdic- 
tion was of a broader and more permanent 
character than that of the personages of the 

The period covered by these annals was 
one of great turbulence and insecurity; 
there was no regularly organized govern- 
ment ; the tribes dwelt apart, and were not 
always friendly. " In those days there was 
no king in Israel ; every man did that which 
was right in his own eyes." ^ It was an- 
archy, tempered not by a policeman, but by 
a judge. The word connotes more than the 
function of a judicial officer ; these judges 
were popular leaders and magistrates. Thir- 
teen of them are named ; the exploits of 
seven of these, Othniel, Ehud, Barak, Gid- 
eon, Abimelech, Jephthah, and Samson, are 
told at considerable length ; six of them 
1 Chap. xxi. 25. 


are simply mentioned, with the number of 
years during which they exercised leader- 

The book consists of three parts : the in- 
troduction, which comprises the first chapter 
and five verses of the second ; the history of 
the Judges proper, beginning with the sixth 
verse of the second chapter and extending 
through the sixteenth chapter : and an ap- 
pendix relating two incidents of the earlier 
history, which have nothing to do with the 
Judges. The manner in which the materi- 
als of the book are put together is highly 
interesting and instructive. It is evident 
that it is a compilation of documents of va- 
rious ages. The introduction is the oldest 
and the most valuable part. It relates the 
history of the occupation of Palestine by 
the twelve tribes, showing us how successive 
incursions were made into this territory by 
the different tribes, some of which were more 
successful than others in dispossessing the 
Canaanites. A few of the tribes drove out 
the aborigines ; some of them were not able 
to expel the natives, and settled among them. 
The Jebusites, for example, held the for- 
tress of Jerusalem, and it was never per- 
manently in possession of the children of 


Israel until the days of David. Others of 
the tribes, partly for economic reasons, suf- 
fered the Canaanites to remain, and when 
the conquerors were waxen strong they made 
slaves of the conquered. This narrative of 
the occupation of Canaan by the twelve 
tribes, as it stands here at the beginning of 
the book of Judges, is apparently a truth- 
ful record ; and it is interesting to compare 
it with statements concerning the occupa- 
tion which occur in the book of Joshua. 
Several portions of this first chapter are 
found, word for word, interspersed through 
the book of Joshua. Let me read you, for 
example, the account of the taking of Debir, 
which is found in the first chapter. 

"And from thence he went against the 
inhabitants of Debir. (Now the name of 
Debir bef oretime was Kiriath-sepher.) And 
Caleb said. He that smiteth Kiriath-sepher, 
and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my 
daughter to wife. And Othniel the son of 
Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it ; 
and he gave him Achsah his daughter to 
wife. And it came to pass, when she came 
unto him, that she moved him to ask of her 
father a field: and she lighted down from 
off her ass ; and Caleb said unto her. What 


wouldest thou ? And she said unto him, 
Give me a present ; for that thou hast set 
me in the land of the South, give me also 
springs of water. And Caleb gave her the 
upper springs and the nether springs." If 
now you turn over to Joshua xv. 15-19, you 
read this same story, word for word, just as 
it is here narrated. It is, of course, incred- 
ible that two independent writers should 
have told the story in exactly the same 
words : one must have borrowed from the 
other, or else, which is much more credible, 
both borrowed from an older document. 
What makes this more probable is that sev- 
eral portions of the first part of Judges are 
thus, as I have said, incorporated into the 
narrative in Joshua. The writers of both 
Joshua and Judges had access to the same 
old document. The writer of Joshua made 
extracts from it, and inserted them in his 
narrative here and there ; the writer of the 
Judges brought his quotations together here 
in the introduction to his book.^ 

1 " These notices display a strong- similarity of style, 
and in some cases even verbal identity with a series of 
passages somewhat loosely attaehed to the context, pre- 
served in the older strata of the book of Joshua. Thus 
Judg. i. 21 (the Benjamites' failure to conquer Jerusalem) 
agrees almost precisely with Josh. xv. 63, the only mate- 


But there is a discrepancy here which the 
wit of man cannot reconcile with the theory 
of an infallible record. The writer of the 
Judges tells us that these incidents of the 
occupation occurred after the death of 
Joshua. The writer of the book of Joshua 
puts them all before the death of Joshua. 
There is nothing to say about this, except 
that one of these writers must be mistaken. 
This incident about Caleb and his daughter, 
which I have read to you, must have taken 
place either before or after the death of 
Joshua. If the writer of Joshua, who puts 

rial difBerence being that the failure is there laid to the 
charge, not of Benjamin, hut of Judah ; i. 20, and 10-15, 
agrees in the main with Josh. xv. 14-19 ; i. 27, 28 with 
Josh. xvii. 12, 13 ; i. 29 with Josh. xvi. 10. Most of the 
verbal differences are due simply to the different rela- 
tions which the fragments hold, in the two books, to the 
contiguous narrative. Josh. xvii. 14-18 (complaint of 
the House of Joseph, and xix. 47 Dan) are very similar 
in representation (implying the separate action taken by 
individual tribes) and in phraseology. It can hardly be 
doubted that both Judg. i. and these notices in Joshua 
are excerpts from what was once a detailed survey of 
the conquest of Canaan : of these excerpts some have 
been filled in with the narrative of Joshua ; others have 
been combined in Judg. i. so as to form, with the addi- 
tion of the opening words. After the death of Joshua^ an 
introduction to the period of the Judges." — Driver's 
Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 153, 154. 


it before the death of Joshua, is right, the 
author of Judges, who puts it after his death, 
must be wrong. 

What difference does it make, you want 
to know, which is right ? It makes not a 
particle of difference to me, I answer, be- 
cause I recognize* the fact that these sacred 
writings are not free from error ; and be- 
cause their value to me is not lessened in 
the slightest degree by the discovery of such 
discrepancies. This incident is a graphic 
and realistic little picture of social man- 
ners in that early time ; as such it is inter- 
esting and valuable ; the precise date at 
which it occurred is of no consequence. 
But these conflicting passages, and there are 
scores of such, do make it absurd to speak 
of the Bible as an infallible book. That is 
a fact which we must look squarely in the 
face. Not until we are ready to deal hon- 
estly with the Bible in all these matters are 
we prepared to receive the instruction it has 
to give us. 

The composite character of the book is 
also made clear even to the ordinary reader 
by a little observation. 

In the first chapter, and the first five 
verses of the second, we have a narrative of 


what happened after the death of Joshua. 
In the sixth verse of the second chapter 
we begin to read as follows : " Now when 
Joshua had sent the people away, the chil- 
dren of Israel went every man unto his 
inheritance to possess the land. And the 
people served the Lord all the days of 
Joshua, and all the days of the elders that 
outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great 
work of the Lord, that he had wrought for 
Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the 
servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred 
and ten years old. And they buried him in 
the border of his inheritance in Timnath- 
heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, on 
the north of the mountain of Gaash." 

If this were a consecutive and orderly 
narrative, written by one hand, the fact of 
the death would probably be stated before 
the events that happened subsequently to 
the death ; but if we have here ancient 
documents pieced together without much 
care for literary consistency, the present 
state of the composition is easily understood. 
It is interesting also to note that the words 
which I have just read are found in the 
last chapter of the book of Joshua. Here, 
again, one writer must have borrowed from 


the other, or else both borrowed from an 
older narrative. 

The stories of the greater Judges, which 
form the body of the book, are told with an 
evident religious motive. The writer wants 
his history to enforce a religious lesson ; he 
evidently believes that all history is profit- 
able as illustrating the moral government 
of Jehovah, AU these narratives begin by 
saying that the children of Israel did evil 
in the sight of Jehovah, and that He deliv- 
ered them over to the oppression of this 
or that oppressor ; after they had suffered 
awhile under this oppression they cried unto 
the Lord, and He raised up for them this or 
that Judge, who subdued their oppressors ; 
then the land had rest for a short period, 
after which the people relapsed into dis- 
obedience, and were again delivered over to 
another oppressor. In all these stories, says 
Dr. Driver, " we have the same succession 
of apostasy, subjugation, the cry for help, 
deliverance, described often in the same, 
always in similar phraseology." ^ 

The apostasy seems to have consisted al- 
ways in forsaking the worship of Jehovah, 
and following after Baal, Astarte, or the 

1 Op. cit. p. 155. 


other gods of the neighboring nations. 
The writer's point of view is that Jehovah 
is the God of Israel, that fidelity to Him is 
the highest duty, that this must bring the 
people peace and prosperity, and that the 
disasters and oppressions under which from 
time to time they have suffered have been 
the direct consequence of their departure 
from Him and their worship of strange gods. 
We find that this worship of Jehovah is 
not, however, the pure spiritual worship 
taught by the prophets ; and it is difficult 
to believe that the Judges, who are here 
described and praised, — or the author who 
tells their story, — had ever seen even the 
decalogue, in the form in which we have 
it now. For although the worship of Je- 
hovah is insisted upon as binding upon the 
people of Israel, it is assumed that He is 
the national God, that other nations have 
gods of their own, whom they are bound 
to worship, and that the power of Jehovah 
is by no means universal and unlimited. 
Thus we read in the first chapter (v. 19) 
that "Jehovah was with Judah, and he 
drave out the inhabitants of the hill coun- 
try ; but he could not drive out the inhabit- 
ants of the valley, because they had chariots 


of iron." The naivete of this primitive 
conception is very striking. So, too, when 
Jephthah argues with the king of the 
Ammonites against the rightfulness of the 
invasion of the territory of Israel, he says : 
" Wilt thou not possess that which Che- 
mosh thy god giveth thee to possess ? So 
whomsoever Jehovah our God hath dispos- 
sessed before us, them will we possess." 
The argument of Jephthah, as Professor 
Moore expresses it, is that " the conquests 
of a people are the conquests of its god, 
who bestows upon them the territory of the 
conquered ; they hold it by a divine right 
which should be respected by others who 
hold their own territories by the like title. 
Chemosh is the national god of Moab, and 
Moab is the people of Chemosh, just as 
Yahveh is the god of Israel and Israel the 
people of Yahveh. . . . The reality and 
power of the national god of Moab were 
no more doubted by the old Israelites than 
those of Yahveh himself." ^ 

And not only is the religion of this book 
thus purely ethnic, the worship of images 
is a more or less regular feature of it. 
Thus Gideon, after his great victory over 

1 Commentary on the Judges, p. 294. 


the Midianites, solicits from each of the 
warriors of his band the coverings which 
they had taken from the bodies of the slain, 
and of these he constructs an ephod, which 
is here, clearly, an image, probably an image 
which is intended to represent Jehovah. 
He sets it up in his own city of Ophrah, 
and the people gather there to worship it. 
A single sentence here expresses disapproval 
of this image worship, but there is reason to 
believe that this comment was added by a 
later hand. In the story of Micah, in the 
seventeenth chapter, no such disapprobation 
is suggested. That story of Micah is one of 
the most striking in the book. Micah was 
a man of Mount Ephraim who steals from 
his mother a large amount of silver, and 
whose conscience troubles him, so that he 
restores it. His mother, in gratitude for 
the recovery of her money, takes a portion 
of the silver and makes an idol of it, which 
she gives to her son, who keeps it in his 
house. An ephod and a teraphim were the 
foundation of their religious establishment, 
— and these were small household images, 
probably images of Jehovah, — intended, as 
the narrative shows, to be used as oracles. 
Having erected a shrine, Micah needed a 


priest, and lie took a young man of the 
neighborhood (perhaps his own son) and 
consecrated him for that service. But pre- 
sently there came along a wandering Le- 
vite, a member of the priestly tribe. " And 
Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou ? 
And he said unto him, I am a Levite of 
Bethlehem-judah, and I go to sojourn where 
I may find a place. And Micah said unto 
him. Dwell with me and be unto me a fa- 
ther and a priest, and I will give thee ten 
pieces of silver by the year and a suit of 
apparel and thy victuals. And the Levite 
was content to dwell with the man, and the 
young man was unto him as one of his own 
sons. Then said Micah, Now know I that 
the Lord will do me good, seeing that I have 
a Levite for my priest." He has a shrine 
with the necessary images, and a priest to 
minister before it ; now he is sure of the 
favor of Jehovah. 

But shortly a scouting party of the chil- 
dren of Dan who are prospecting for terri- 
tory which their tribe may occupy, passing 
this way, find this shrine and this oracle, 
and consult it as to the direction which 
they shall take. Following the counsel of 
the oracle, they travel northward and dis- 


cover an eligible site ; then they return, 
and are conducting their tribe to its new 
seat among the northern hills. But as they 
repass the house of Micah the bright 
thought strikes them that they might as 
well capture these idols of Micah, whose 
guidance has been so profitable to them ; 
and they make a raid upon the shrine, and 
seize the images and are making off with 
them. " What do ye ? " cries the hired 
priest. " And they said unto him. Hold 
thy peace, lay thy hand upon thy mouth 
and go with us, and be to us a father and a 
priest ; is it better for thee to be priest 
unto the house of one man, or to be priest 
unto a tribe and a family in Israel ? And 
the priest's heart was glad, and he took the 
ephod and the teraphim and the graven 
image and went in the midst of the people." 
After a little, Micah and his neighbors set 
out in pursuit, but the Danites laugh at 
him and he returns bereft of his gods, with 
a heavy heart, to his home. The Danites 
with their captured images and their con- 
script priest go on their way rejoicing ; and 
after they have put to the sword the people 
of the territory which they have chosen, and 
have burnt their city, they set up their 


graven image and install their priest, and 
the worship thus inaugurated continues 
through many generations. And now it 
transpires that the young Levite, the hero 
of this remarkable adventure and the founder 
of this religious institution, is none other 
than the grandson of Moses. 

In all this narrative there is no hint of 
any disapproval of their conduct ; the fabri- 
cation of these graven images, their use as 
oracles, the erection of this shrine, are treated 
as matters wholly legitimate, and the sharp 
practice of the Danites in ravishing the 
shrine and carrying off the household gods 
of Micah is told without a syllable of disap- 
proval. It is evident that the writer sees 
nothing in it which seriously conflicts with 
his notions of religion and morality. 

I cannot examine, so fully as I wish I 
might, the narratives of this remarkable 
book. The story of Jephthah and his daugh- 
ter is a most striking revelation of the 
moral and religious condition of these peo- 
ple. Jephthah vowed, on the eve of a great 
battle, that if victory should be granted 
him he would make a burnt offering of the 
first living thing that came forth from his 
door to meet him on his return ; it was his 


daughter wlio met him, — and although it 
filled him with dismay, he kept his vow. 
" I have opened my mouth unto the Lord," 
he said, " and I cannot go back," " and he 
did with her according to the vow which he 
had vowed." The commentators have made 
desperate attempts to explain away this ter- 
rible story, but it is useless. The author 
means that we shall understand that Jeph- 
thah offered his daughter to Jehovah, as a 
burnt offering, in fulfillment of his vow. 
" One wishes," says Dr. Martin Luther in 
his Commentary, "that he had not sacri- 
ficed her, but the text stands there plain." ^ 
And the author of the book sees nothing to 
censure in his conduct, and evidently be- 
lieves that Jehovah was pleased with the 
fulfillment of the vow. 

If you have read the book through care- 
fully, you do not need that I should re- 
hearse the stories of Othniel and Ehud, and 
Deborah, and Gideon, and Samson. These 
are wonderful stories ; they possess a peren- 
nial interest for readers of all generations ; 
they have their uses, of which we shall pre- 
sently speak ; it is only necessary to remem- 

1 " Man will er habe sie nicht geopfert, aber der Text 
stebt Klar da." 


ber that they do not uniformly represent to 
us the mind of Christ ; that the thoughts of 
the writers and the compilers of these stories 
are not always such thoughts as we ought to 
think about God and religion, about man 
and his duties. 

What, then, is the real value of the book ? 

I answer, first, that it is a picture of a 
dark age, of the darkest age, probably, of 
Hebrew history. It brings before us in a 
series of realistic sketches the conditions of 
life and thought in a time when the know- 
ledge of God was dim, and the ethical ideas 
of men were crude. The Hebrews are the 
people to whom, in later ages, the highest 
and purest conceptions of religion and of 
righteousness were given, but these concep- 
tions were the result of a long training and 
a severe discipline, and this book of Judges 
shows us what the Hebrews were in the 
beginning, out of what kind of stuff the 
prophets and lawgivers and psalmists of 
Israel were developed. Perhaps you saw 
at the Columbian Exposition the Bell tele- 
phone, in aU the stages of its development, 
from the first crude apparatus to the per- 
fected instrument. It is very instructive 
to observe such an evolution. And the 


Bible gives us a chance to study tlie evolu- 
tion of the religious thought of one race, — 
the one race whose religious thought is most 
significant and precious. These folk-stories 
of the eludges are, for this purpose, of un- 
speakable value. The people of that rude 
time are permitted to bring before us, in 
their own way, their ideas about God and 
their conceptions of human conduct. Upon 
these pages, with the utmost simplicity and 
sincerity, they tell us their thought, they 
live out their life ; we see them working, 
worshiping, scheming, fighting, journeying, 
sojourning ; nothing is hidden from us ; 
their crudest ideas, their most heathenish 
beliefs are laid bare to our view, — and 
this not by some one who stands outside, 
and moralizes about it from a higher plane, 
but by themselves, for the stories, though 
brought together by a later compiler, are, 
for substance, clearly the handiwork of men 
who lived when such conceptions were cur- 

Such, then, were the raw materials of hu- 
manity, out of which were to be constructed 
the sublimities and glories of the Hebrew 
faith. Men like Gideon and Othniel and 
Barak and Jephthah and Samson, with their 


crude notions about Jehovah, with their idol- 
atries and indecencies and treacheries and 
barbarities, were to become, under the edu- 
cation of the Spirit, such chivalrous heroes 
as David, such noblemen as Hezekiah, such 
clear-sighted moralists as the authors of the 
Proverbs, such seers as Isaiah and Jeremiah 
and Hosea and grand old Amos, such sing- 
ers as those who wrote the Psalms, such 
spiritual philosophers as the author of the 
book of Job. A most precious product of 
divine inspiration is this spiritual faith of 
Israel ; here, in the Judges, we see the hole 
of the pit out of which it was digged. 

There are historical values, here, also, 
which must not be overlooked. Doubtless 
we get in the story of Deborah and Barak, in 
the story of Gideon, in the story of Jeph- 
thah, some substantial additions to our his- 
torical knowledge respecting the struggles 
of Israel with the neighboring powers. 

And, more than this, there is stimulus and 
inspiration for virtue in the conduct of these 
heroes and heroines of Israel. We do not 
need to copy their barbarities : Jesus Christ 
has taught us how to discriminate between 
the good and the evil in their conduct ; but 
we can never read this record without hav- 


ing our courage strengthened and our patri- 
otism quickened. Gideon's dauntless deeds, 
Deborah's flaming speech, Samson's sublime 
self-sacrifice, — the unhesitating self-abnega- 
tion of the daughter of Jephthah, all kindle 
in our hearts the fire of noble endeavor. 

And higher than all is the lesson of the 
whole book, that the one supreme thing is 
to be faithful to your highest convictions. 
All these stories make this clear ; it is the 
one truth that they all emphasize. Fidelity 
to Jehovah brought welfare and liberty and 
peace to Israel ; disobedience to Him brought 
bondage and misery. Now Jehovah and his 
law was to these Israelites the highest truth 
they knew. It was a very crude notion that 
they had about Him ; but He represented 
to them the best life of which they could 
conceive. They knew that when they for- 
sook Him and went after Baal and Astarte 
with their licentious rites, they were prefer- 
ring the lower to the higher. For them, as 
for us, there was a law in the members 
warring against the law in the mind, and 
when they dethroned the angel and enthroned 
the beast they knew that they were wrong. 
This primary conviction the book every- 
where confirms ; it bears witness that when 


men follow the highest that they know, it is 
well with them ; and that when they for- 
sake the highest that they know and go after 
other gods it is ill with them. And this, 
I say, is the supreme lesson of life. It is 
just as true for us as it was for those half- 
savage Israelites. There are a good many of 
us, I fear, who are doing just what they did ; 
we are false to our ideals ; we are not fol- 
lowing the highest truth we know ; we are 
seeking gains, prizes, pleasures that do not 
ennoble, but rather degrade us ; these are 
our idols, for an idol is anything to which 
a man turns when he forsakes his ideals ; 
and by as much as our ideals are higher and 
purer than those of the old Israelites, by so 
much is our condemnation greater than 
theirs, our bondage harder to break, our 
loss more nearly irreparable. The book of 
Judges teaches us this lesson : that fidelity 
to the highest truth you know is the straight 
path to life. If we learn this lesson out of 
this book we shall have reason to thank 
God that He has hidden for us in one of the 
puzzling books of the Bible a pearl of great 



In our English Bibles the book of Esther 
follows the historical books, Kings, Chroni- 
cles, Ezra, and Nehemiah ; but the arrange- 
ment of the Hebrew Bibles is different. 
The three divisions of the Hebrew Bible 
contain the Law, the Prophets, and the 
Ketubim or Writings ; and this order re- 
presents the Jewish idea of their comparative 
value. The first division, the Law, includes 
the first five books of the Bible, and is to 
the Jew the most precious portion of the 
book. The second division, the Prophets, 
includes the books of Joshua, the Judges, 
Samuel, and Kings, as well as those which we 
call the prophetical books, Daniel only ex- 
cepted ; and this division is regarded by them 
as second in value to the Law. The Ketu- 
bim or Writings includes the remaining 
books of the Bible. Among these we find 
The Psalms, The Proverbs, Job, The Song of 
Songs, Ruth, The Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, 


Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the 
Chronicles. This third division was consid- 
ered by the Jews to be the least valuable of 
their Scriptures, though they placed a high 
estimate on some of these books, as we shall 
see. Most of these are undoubtedly of a late 
date ; and the later writings were not so 
highly prized as the earlier ones. It will be 
observed that five of the seven Old Testa- 
ment books which we have chosen to study 
are found in this less esteemed division of 
the Jewish Bible. It would seem, there- 
fore, that some of the difficulties which we 
find in them may have occurred to the Jews 
themselves. Yet their judgment of the 
worth of these Scriptures cannot be given 
much weight in our decision concerning 
them ; the Rabbinical notions of what is 
excellent in Scripture do not always evince 
a clear spiritual insight. 

Respecting the books contained in the 
first and second divisions of the Hebrew 
Bible, there has been, so far as I know, no 
controversy among the Jews themselves. 
But the contents of this last division have 
been somewhat disputed. About Ecclesi- 
astes, The Song of Songs, The Proverbs, and 
Esther, there were differences of opinion 


among the doctors of the law. There were 
those who contended that this book of Esther 
should not be included among the sacred 
writings because of its total lack of religious- 
ness. " The book of Esther," says Ryle, 
" the composition of which may very probably 
be assigned to the third century b. c, became 
in later days one of the most popular writ- 
ings of the Ketubim. But its admission 
to the Canon was either so long delayed or 
was afterwards, for some reason, regarded 
with such disfavor that in some quarters, 
among the Jews of the first century A. D., 
as we shall see later on, it was omitted alto- 
gether from the list of sacred books." 

Professor Ryle quotes from the Talmudic 
literature several discussions about Esther. 
In one of them the book, Esther, is person- 
ified, and represented as petitioning for ad- 
mission to the Canon, and the reply of " the 
Wise " is interpreted as meaning that it be- 
longs in neither of the three classes of Scrip- 
ture, and that a fourth class cannot be made 
to receive it. Rabbi Jehudi is reported as 
deciding that " the book of Esther defile th 
not the hands " — is not inspired. Other 
rabbins give a contrary opinion, furnishing 
very dubious and fantastic reasons for it. 


" Such sayings imply," says Professor Ryle, 
" that there had been some hesitation in ac- 
cepting the canonicity of the book.^ But the 
difficulties that had been felt vanished before 
the application of these strange methods of - 
interpretation." ^ 

This protest was not silenced until the 
first century of our era. While our Lord 
was teaching in Jerusalem, the right of Eecle- 
siastes and Esther to be regarded as Holy 
Scriptures must, therefore, have been still 
discussed by some learned Jews.^ Not only 

1 " Down into the second century of our era the canon- 
ical authority of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, and 
Esther was warmly debated by Jewish scholars." — 
Wildeboer's Origin of Canon of Old Testament, p. 72. 

2 Canon of the Old Testament, 2d ed., pp. 149, 210-212. 
^ Some of the scholars think that the discussions of 

the Rabbis respecting- the canonicity of Esther, which we 
find reported in some of the Talmudical books, were only 
exercises in dialectic, objections being raised for the 
sake of answering them. The fact, however, remains 
that it was precisely those books whose title to a place 
among the Scriptures is most questionable upon which 
they exercised their dialectic. I do not know that any 
such debates are reported about Isaiah or Jeremiah or 
Amos or Mieah. It would seem that there must have 
been some doubt in their minds concerning the moral and 
religious character of this book. On this whole subject 
see the learned and thorough discussion of Dr. G. Wilde- 
boer, in The Origin of the Canon of the Old Testament, 
where the author makes it clear that the discussions 


was this true, but quite a number of the 
books which are now excluded from our 
Protestant Bibles, the books of the Apocry- 
pha, were undoubtedly included in that Greek 
translation of the Old Testament which seems 
to have been used by Jesus and his disciples, 
and from which most of their quotations 
were undoubtedly made. 

It became necessary, therefore, for the 
Christians, when they began to use the Old 
Testament Scriptures, to determine for them- 
selves how many of these Old Testament 
books were sacred writings. Should they re- 
ject Esther and Ecclesiastes and Solomon's 
Song ? Should they take in the Maccabees 
and Judith and Esdras and the Wisdom of 
Solomon? It took them a long time to 
make up their minds. Athanasius counted 
Esther among the apocryphal books ; Am- 
philochius of Iconium says that some think 
that Esther should be regarded as belong- 
ing to the Holy Scripture ; Augustine lets 
into his collection some of the apocryphal 
books, but puts out Esther ; Gregory of 
Nazianzen omits it from his catalogue. 

of the Talmud are not, as Strack maintains, mere critical 
fencing, but represent serious doubts as to the right of 
the book to its place among the Sacred Scriptures. 


In speaking of the objections to Old Tes- 
tament books wbich caused some of tbe Fa- 
thers to demand their withdrawal from the 
Canon, Professor Eyle says : " Opposition to 
the book of Esther appears to have taken 
this open form. Its withdrawal may, of 
course, have only expressed a local preju- 
dice due to the teaching of some influential 
Rabbi. But the fact of the book having 
been actually excluded from a Jewish list of 
Canonical Scripture merits attention. For, 
although we learn of it from a Christian 
source, the position of the book of Esther 
in certain other Christian lists which profess 
to give the contents of the Hebrew Canon 
indicates the suspicion with which it was 
apt to be regarded. Melito, the Bishop of 
Sardis (^circ. 170 a. d.), sent to a friend a 
list of the Old Testament Scriptures which 
he professed to have obtained from accurate 
inquiry, while traveling in the East, in Syria. 
Its contents agree with those of the Hebrew 
Canon, save in the omission of Esther."^ 

Professor Ryle proceeds to discuss the 
question whether this omission was acciden- 
tal or intentional, and comes to the con- 
clusion that it was probably intentionaL 
1 Canon of the Old Testament, p. 203. 


" For, " lie says, " the same unfavorable opin- 
ion which the omission would denote is not 
only expressed in the Eabbinical discussions 
mentioned in the previous chapter, but is 
also implied in the position allotted to the 
book in other Christian writings which claim 
to reproduce the contents of the Hebrew 
Canon." And he readily concedes that to 
Christian readers of those days " the char- 
acter of the book may very naturally have 
given rise to difficulties. Its spirit and 
teaching seemed to have little in common 
with the New Testament." ^ 

The learned and judicious Professor San- 
day, after mentioning the long dissent of 
the Christian Fathers to the canonicity of 
Esther, adds : " There was certainly room 
for such objection. The book of Esther 
derives no sanction from the New Testa- 
ment. It has often been pointed out that it 
does not even mention the name of God ; 
and it adds nothing to the sum of revela- 
tion. The book, a^s we have seen, after a 
time secured its place in the Jewish Canon 
and through the Jewish passed over into the 
Christian canon ; but more, we may believe, 
by way of tacit acquiescence than of active 
approval." ^ 

1 Pp. 204, 205. 2 Inspiration, p. 214. 


The fact thus appears that good men 
both in the Jewish and in the Christian 
churches until a late date disputed the ad- 
mission of this book to the canon of the 
Scripture. Indeed, so late as the time of 
the Reformation Dr. Martin Luther was 
quite positive in his judgment that the book 
had no rightful place in the Bible. " We 
have excluded some books," he said, " but 
this, most of all, deserves to be cast out. It 
Judaizes too much, and contains much hea- 
then naughtiness." If you and I should 
venture, therefore, to question the historical 
accuracy of this book and the soundness of 
its morality we should find ourselves in good 
company. One can very well afford to be 
called a heretic along with Athanasius, and 
Augustine, and Gregory of Nazianzen, and 
Martin Luther. 

The gradual weakening of the Christian 
protest against the book of Esther was due, 
perhaps, in part, to the gradual strengthen- 
ing of the Jewish theories concerning the 
sacredness of the book. For though, as I 
have said, it was one of the books in dispute 
among the Jews up to the beginning of our 
era, from that time onward Jewish opinion 
became more and more positive and enthusi- 


astic respecting it. This was partly because 
of its connection with the feast of Purim, 
which was becoming more and more popu- 
lar, and largely because of its extrava- 
gant representations of Jewish prestige and 
power. From being one of the disputed 
books of the Ketubim it came to be the 
most esteemed of all ; so that one of their 
great authorities, Moses Maimonides, ex- 
presses the opinion that when the Messiah 
shall come, all the prophetical books and all 
the books of the Ketubim except Esther will 
be done away ; that the only Bible which 
the Jews will need in that great day will 
be the Pentateuch and the book of Esther. 
How much the opinion of such a writer is 
worth on a question of inspiration I leave 
you to say. So far as the decision of the 
Christian Fathers with respect to this book 
was founded on Jewish opinion, it does not 
rest on a good foundation. 

Let us briefly review the story. The scene 
is laid at Shushan the palace, by which is 
undoubtedly intended Susa, the Persian cap- 
ital. The ancient Elam, lying a few hundred 
miles north of the head of the Persian Gulf, 
is one of the oldest seats of civilization. 
The people who originally inhabited the 


region appear to have been Semites, but 
tbey were driven out, as tbe Celts were 
driven out of England by tbe Saxons ; and 
the Cusbite invaders became tbe permanent 
occupants of tbe country. Tbe territory lies 
east of tbe Tigris, a fertile plain stretcbing 
back to mountains witb ample pasturage, 
from wbicb streams witb abundant and pure 
water descend to tbe great river. Elam, 
later known as Susiana, was a tributary 
province of Babylon ; but wben tbe Per- 
sians became tbe dominant race Darius tbe 
Great built Susa, tbe Sbusban of tbis story. 
Tbe climate was better tban tbat of Perse- 
polis, or Babylon, and tbe water was purer ; 
it became tbe favorite capital of tbe great 
king. Tbe palace was almost an exact copy 
of tbat at Persepolis, tbe ruins of wbicb 
have been uncovered; tbere is a familiar 
picture of tbe lions mounting tbe migbty 
staircase to tbe terrace wbere a few pillars, 
lonely in tbe moonligbt, stand as monuments 
of tbe grandeur forever gone. Tbis is Perse- 
polis, and tbe palace at Susa was built after 
tbe same plan, except tbat tbis grand stair- 
case was not repeated. 

Tbe son of Darius wbo succeeded bim was 
known by tbe Persians as Kbscbyarscban ; 


the Hebrews spelled it Achaschverosch, which 
our translators have softened into Ahas- 
uerus ; the Greek form of it is Xerxes. It 
seems clear that the story intends to bring 
before us the great Persian despot whose 
stupendous exploits Herodotus has rehearsed 
in his glowing narrative. Darius his father 
had been meditating the invasion of little 
Greece, for whom he had no more love than 
Abdul the Infamous has to-day. In the 
midst of his preparations he suddenly died, 
and Xerxes, on his succession, having put 
down an insurrection among his subject 
Egyptians, took up his father's unfinished 
enterprise. Four years were devoted to the 
gathering and equipment of the army and 
the navy ; all the countries of the East and 
even Africa were drawn upon for troops, 
and the land and naval forces that were 
finally led through Asia Minor and up the 
Mediterranean formed, undoubtedly, the big- 
gest marching aggregation of human beings 
that ever has been gathered together since 
the world began. 

The fighting men are said by Herodotus 
to have numbered 2,500,000, and the fleet 
consisted of 1207 fighting vessels, besides 
3000 smaller vessels. The camp followers 


greatly swelled this number; Herodotus 
wishes us to believe that there were six 
millions in all. It is generally safe to di- 
vide the figures of an Oriental historian by 
five; even so, there may have been a mil- 
lion men in the Persian host. I do not 
need to tell the story, the bridging of the 
Hellespont, the cutting of the canal through 
the peninsula of Athos ; the march through 
those very plains and defiles of Thessaly 
where the Turks and the Greeks have been 
fighting just now ; the immortal struggle at 
Thermopylse, where the Greeks of to-day 
threatened to make their final stand; the 
capture and destruction of Athens, the vic- 
tory of the Greek fleet at Salamis, and the 
cowardly and precipitate flight of Xerxes, 
with the scattering and destruction of his 
stupendous army, very few of whose battal- 
ions ever found their way back to Persia 
— all this is a very old story. All that we 
know of Xerxes leads us to feel that he was 
one of the sort of men of whom the world 
cannot have too few. Vainglorious, pusil- 
lanimous, licentious, and bloodthirsty, he 
was a nearly perfect embodiment of most of 
the qualities which a ruler of men ought not 
to possess. When a father who had sent 


five sons into his great army begged that 
the sixth might stay at home, he showed 
his sympathy with the father by having 
the body of this sixth son cut in twain and 
making the father march between the two 
halves of it on his way to Greece. When a 
storm destroyed his bridge over the Helles- 
pont, he not only cut off the heads of the 
engineers who built it, but he ordered three 
hundred lashes to be administered to the 
rebellious Hellespont, and a pair of fetters 
to be thrown into it. The author of the 
book of Esther probably knew something 
about Xerxes ; and most of what is told us 
of Ahasuerus might well enough have been 
true of the Persian despot. So far as the 
king's character is concerned the verisimil- 
itude is fairly close. 

This, then, is the king with the unpro- 
nounceable name and the insatiable ambi- 
tion, who is said to have made a great feast 
for his nobles, lasting 180 days, and then 
for all the people of Susa, continuing a 
full week. Some say that it was a feast in 
celebration of that conquest of Greece which 
he was going forth to win, and that it oc- 
curred just before his departure on that ill- 
fated campaign ; that he spent the last six 


montlis of his preparation for the invasion 
in a drunken orgy. But this is conjecture. 
On the last day of this debauch, having 
nearly exhausted the resources of indecency, 
he summons his queen to exhibit her beauty 
before his drunken nobles; when she re- 
fuses, as by all the traditions of his court, 
as well as the instincts of womanhood, she 
was bound to do, he deposes her. Here the 
story weakens. Such a king would cer- 
tainly have cut off her head. 

Out of all the kingdom the most beauti- 
ful young women are now drawn to Susa, 
and out of this array of beauty the king 
selects a Jewish maiden, Esther, and installs 
her in the place of Queen Yashti. Her 
Hebrew name is Hadassah ; Esther, which 
means the " Star of Love," or Yenus, is her 
Persian name. She has been brought up 
by her cousin Mordecai, a Hebrew of the 
Hebrews, and it is he who has secured for 
her this elevation, though her nationality is 
not known to the king. 

Soon after her coronation, Mordecai was 
enabled through Esther to give information 
concerning a plot against the king's life; 
the king hanged the conspirators and bade 
Mordecai's good deed to be inscribed in the 
archives of the kingdom. 


After this Xerxes raised to a high rank 
a certain Ham an, and commanded all his 
courtiers to do obeisance to him. Mordecai 
wonld not bow, and Haman, to avenge the 
insult, plotted the destruction of the whole 
Hebrew race. The king yielded to Haman's 
prayer and the fatal decree was issued, to 
take effect eleven months from date. All 
the Jews, young and old, in every province, 
were to be massacred and their goods con- 
fiscated. The date of the massacre was fixed 
by lot. Now Esther, instigated by Mor- 
decai, at the peril of her life intervenes, pre- 
senting herself, uninvited, before the king; 
having won his favor, she secures a pro- 
mise to give her anything she asks for, even 
to the half of the kingdom. The result of 
all the dramatic complications, which I will 
not stop to detail, is that Haman is hanged, 
and Mordecai made Grand Vizier ; and while, 
according to Oriental ethics, no royal decree 
could be abrogated, a supplementary decree 
was issued, authorizing the Jews not only to 
stand for their lives on the day appointed 
for their extinction, but to kill as many as 
they pleased of the Persians. The story 
represents that before that day came the 
Persians were so intimidated by the power 


of Mordecai that they did not dare to touch 
the Jews, but simply stood still and were 
slaughtered by the Jews to the number of 
75,000. In the palace of Susa itself 500 
Persians were slain on the first day by the 
infuriated Jews, while not a Jew suffered, 
so far as we are told. After this day of 
blood Xerxes, apparently feeling that his 
fair queen must be pretty well satiated with 
the carnage which had been going on under 
her eyes, asked her if she wanted any more, 
and she begged that the slaughter might be 
permitted to go on for one more day, during 
which 300 more of the Persians were butch- 
ered. The ten sons of Haman had been 
killed the first day ; and Esther stipulated 
also that their dead bodies might be brought 
forth and publicly hanged upon the gallows, 
all of which was done at her request, and for 
her delectation. The fourteenth and fif- 
teenth days of the Jewish month Adar are 
kept in memory of this event as days of 
gladness and feasting, and of sending por- 
tions one to another. This is said to be the 
origin of the feast of Purim. 

Two questions now arise concerning this 
book, — the same questions that occurred to 
pious Jews in Palestine when our Lord was 



on the earth, and to such saints as Athanasius 
and Augustine and Gregory and Luther. 
The first question is whether this is a true 
narration of historical events, and the sec- 
ond whether the conduct which the book 
evidently approves is right conduct. Is the 
moral teaching of the book sound teaching ? 
And this is the main question. The book 
might be a historical romance, founded on 
fact, — as some books of the Bible undoubt- 
edly are, — and still be highly useful because 
of the good instruction which it conveyed. 
The fact that the story of the Prodigal Son 
is a work of imagination in nowise affects 
its value. For purposes of inspiration no 
fact that ever occurred is worth more to the 
world than this bit of fiction. If the book 
of Esther were proved to be largely a work 
of the imagination, containing historical in- 
accuracies and scientific improbabilities, its 
usefulness would not be discredited pro- 
vided its representation of the great truths 
of conduct and character were true and 
right. But if the impression which the book 
is calculated to make upon the mind respect- 
ing human conduct is a wrong impression, 
if its standards are low, if its ideals are 
false, then it is not of much use to try to 
prove that it is historically true. 


The fact that the book recites wicked and 
bloody deeds does not condemn it. Wicked 
and bloody deeds are often occurring and 
must sometimes be rehearsed. Other books 
of the Bible relate to us great impieties and 
atrocities, but they are ordinarily related in 
such a way that our moral judgment is called 
forth against them. David committed a 
great sin ; but he was rebuked for it by the 
prophet and humbly confessed it. The writ- 
ers who tell these stories ordinarily make 
us feel that they approve the good and con- 
demn the evil. It is not always true, as we 
have seen, but it is generally true. Is this 
the fact respecting the writer of the book of 
Esther ? 

Those for whom I am writing have read 
the book, and can answer for themselves. 
For my part, I think that those pious Jews 
of the first century, and those Christian 
fathers and reformers of later centuries, who 
denied that this book was inspired of God, 
were entirely right. 

In the first place, the absence of the reli- 
gious element is notable. Not only is the 
name of God absent from the book, there is 
no mention of any religious act or exercise 
except the fasting of Esther. Prayer is not 


alluded to; there is no reference to tem- 
ple or altar or sacrifice. By one of Morde- 
cai's remarks — " Who knoweth but thou 
hast come to the kingdom for such a time as 
this ? " — a belief in Providence is suggested. 
" The point of view," says Dr. Driver, " is 
throughout purely secular ; the preservation 
of the race as such, and its worldly great- 
ness, not the perpetuation and diffusion of its 
religion, are the objects in which the author's 
interest is manifestly centred." ^ 

But it is less because of a lack of religious- 
ness than because of a bad morality that 
the book falls under condemnation. 

That a petulant courtier like Haman should 
have plotted the destruction of the Jews is 
not impossible, and the heroic efforts of 
Mordecai and Esther to avert this calamity 
might have entitled them to praise. But the 
kind of vengeance which they are said to 
have induced this despot to inflict upon the 
Persian people admits of no justification. 
The intended massacre of their race appears 
to have been instigated solely by Haman ; 
there is no intimation that any other Persian 
had any part in it ; indeed, there is a sen- 
tence which seems to mean that the people of 
^ Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 457. 


Persia were horrified at the decree. When 
it was published, it is said that " the city 
Shushan was perplexed." Yet when Haman, 
who is the sole instigator of this atrocity, is 
deposed and hanged, and Mordecai is made 
prime minister in his place, Mordecai and 
Esther proceed to slaughter 75,000 of these 
innocent Persians, as vengeance for a deed 
that was never done by anybody, and which 
those who were murdered do not appear to 
have even thought of doing. We are given 
to understand that this 75,000 included not 
only Persian men, but " their little ones 
and their women." ^ All this appears to the 

^ A sample of the curiosities of exegesis is seen in the 
attempt of some of the interpreters to make out that the 
phrase "little ones and women," in viii. 11, is gram- 
matically the object of the verb "assault," rather than 
of the previous verbs " destroy, slay, and cause to per- 
ish ; " i. e., that the decree of Mordecai did not authorize 
the destruction of the women and children of the Per- 
sians, but only the destruction of those Persians who were 
seeking to destroy their women and children. It is an 
interesting example of the lengths to which traditional- 
ism can go in twisting language for the concealment of 
troublesome facts. The fact that the decree of Morde- 
cai is intended to be an exact duplication of the decree 
of Haman (iii. 13), and that it permits the Jews to do to 
the Persians exactly -what the Persians had been author- 
ized to do to the Jews, can scarcely be doubted by any 
careful reader. The Vulgate makes the matter clear: 



author of the book of Esther a highly proper 
and praiseworthy proceeding. 

Much is made by the apologists for the 
book of the fact that the terms of the decree 
authorize nothing more than self-defense 
on the part of the Jews. It is evident that 
this is what the writer set out to say ; but 
in telling the tale his imagination was per- 
mitted a loose rein, and he ended by repre- 
senting the Persians as standing utterly 
cowed and helpless before the onset of the 
Jews. Besides, he tells us that the power 
of Mordecai was so great and universal that 
the whole force of the kingdom was on the 
side of the Jews ; this does not sound like a 
story of self-defense : — 

" The Jews gathered themselves together 
in their cities throughout all the provinces 

" Omnes inimicos suos, cum conjugibus ac liberis, et uni- 
versis domibus, interficerent et delerent." Nearly all the 
most conservative commentators give the text this inter- 
pretation, though some of them assert that the Jews did 
not carry this part of the decree into execution. Their 
authority for this assertion they carefully conceal from 
us. Indeed, the sparing of women and children in such 
a massacre would be an exceptional occurrence. The text 
of the decree describes what was customary in the wars 
of that period, and what was abundantly authorized by the 
Jewish Scriptures in the extermination of the Canaanites. 



of the King Ahasuerus to lay hand on such 
as sought their hurt ; and no man could 
withstand them, for the fear of them was 
fallen upon all the people. And all the 
princes of the provinces and the satraps and 
the governors and they that did the king's 
business helped the Jews ; because the fear 
of Mordecai had fallen upon them. For 
Mordecai was great in the king's house, 
and his fame went forth throughout all the 
provinces, for the man Mordecai waxed 
greater and greater. And the Jews smote 
all their enemies with the stroke of the 
sword, and with slaughter and destruction, 
and did what they would unto all that 
hated them. And in Shushan the palace 
the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred 
men." i 

And when, after the first days' carnage 
in the palace, Esther begs that the slaughter 
may go on before her eyes another day, the 
writer sees in this gross savagery nothing 
to disapprove. The book contains no syl- 
lable which intimates that Mordecai and 
Esther were actuated by an improper spirit, 
or that they overstepped the limits of justice 
and righteousness. It is sometimes said by 

1 Chap. ix. 2-6. 


the apologists that the book is a colorless 
record, neither praising nor censuring the 
acts it narrates ; but every reader knows 
that Mordecai and Esther represent the 
writer's ideals of human virtue. 

The Christian teacher who represents this 
book as teaching a sound morality or as 
expressing the mind of the Divine Spirit 
takes upon himself a heavy responsibility. 

If the book is not a safe guide in morals 
or religion, it would be, as I have said 
already, quite absurd to argue that it is 
historically infallible. If the spirit whicb 
inspired it does not teach sound morals, we 
need not expect it to teach the truth about 
history. And there is plenty of evidence 
that the book is a historical fiction and one 
which makes very free with facts. 

There is good reason for doubting that 
Xerxes ever had a queen by the name of 
Esther. His queen between the seventh and 
the twelfth years of his reign was Amestris. 
We know much about her, and it is not likely 
that she would have tolerated a rival. More- 
over the book represents Esther as the queen, 
and the only queen. She might have been 
a favorite of the monarch ; his queen she 
certainly was not. 


The manner in which the queen is selected 
in this story is also contrary to the histori- 
cal fact ; the Persian king was required to 
choose his queen from one of six noble 
families; and the laws of the Medes and 
the Persians in matters of this kind were 
not likely to be tampered with. 

In fact, all that is related about the de- 
cree for the massacre of the Jews which was 
not executed, and the decree for the massa- 
cre of the Persians which was, taxes our cre- 
dulity. Xerxes was a somewhat irrespon- 
sible monarch, but we can hardly imagine 
that even he would order the extermination 
of a whole race ; for Palestine was at that 
time a Persian dependency, and the slaugh- 
ter must have involved the Jews in Palestine 
as well as those dwelling in Persia, — not 
less than two millions of people. Nor can 
we quite believe that this Jewish prime min- 
ister could have so completely terrorized the 
warlike Persians that when their turn came 
they should have tamely stood still and been 
slaughtered by the Jews, to the number of 
seventy-five thousand, without lifting a finger 
to defend themselves, — especially when they 
knew that they were wholly undeserving of 
this vengeance. 


On the whole, we are justified, on many 
grounds, in doubting whether anything just 
like this ever happened in Susa or anywhere 
else. There may have been an attempted 
slaughter of Jews in Persia, which was 
foiled by the courage and devotion of some 
Jewish maiden in the court of the king ; 
but many fictitious embellishments have 
probably been added to the story by this 
writer. " Though," says Dr. Driver, " the 
narrative cannot reasonably be doubted to 
have a historical basis, it includes items that 
are not strictly historical ; the elements of 
the narrative were supplied to the writer 
by tradition, and, aided by his knowledge of 
Persian life and customs, he combined them 
into a consistent picture ; in some cases 
the details were colored already by tradition 
before they came to the author's hand, in 
other cases they owe their present form 
to the author's love of dramatic effect. An 
evident collateral aim of the narrative is to 
magnify the importance and influence of the 
Jews. ... It is in some of the details con- 
nected with his picture of the Jews that 
the author's narrative is most open to the 
suspicion of exaggeration. It is probable, 
in fact, that the danger which threatened 


the Jews was a local one, and that the 
massacre which they wrought upon their 
foes was on a much smaller scale than is 
represented." ^ 

Upon the historical and critical questions 
here involved, many of us would feel dis^ 
inclined to venture an opinion, but any of 
us may have an opinion upon the moral 
teaching of the book ; and if the author is 
convicted of grave error in this respect, it 
is rather superfluous to claim for him his- 
torical inerrancy. 

There are traits in the narrative which 
win our approval. The stanch patriotism 
of Mordecai and Esther; their passionate 
grief over the disaster that threatens their 
people ; the heroism of Esther in taking her 
life in her hand and venturing into the 
king's presence, saying, " If I perish, I per- 
ish," — all this is exemplary and noble. If 
the writer could have contented himself 
with making Esther and Mordecai the res- 
cuers of their people (we could have justi- 
fied him in getting Haman happily hanged 
in the operation), the book might have been 
as precious as Jewish national partiality has 
represented it to be ; but the last three 
1 Introduction, pp. 453, 454. 


chapters are tlie expression of a moral sen- 
timent which is utterly at war, not only 
with the ethics of the New Testament, but 
with the teaching of the Old Testament as 
well. Ewald is right when he says that 
" in passing to Esther from other books of 
the Old Testament we pass from heaven to 

The book is here in the Bible, and it has 
its uses. There is no other book in the 
Bible that it is so hard to account for ; there 
is none which needs to be handled so care- 
fully ; nevertheless it has its uses. 

It is useful, for one thing, as a standing 
illustration of how little Jewish tradition 
is worth in deciding a question of inspira- 

It is useful as a picture of an Oriental 
court ; for in spite of the exaggerations re- 
specting the details of the massacres, the 
representation of life at the court of Xerxes 
in the palace of Susa is probably substan- 
tially correct. 

Above all, it is useful as showing us the 
kind of character that has passed for an 
ideal of womanhood in former ages. There 
is reason to fear that many Christian read- 
ers have suffered some confusion of their 


moral sense in reading the sympathetic de- 
lineation of the character of this author's 
heroine. Vashti is the character which most 
demands our sympathy, but the art of the 
writer seeks to transfer all our affection to 
Esther. To take the view of this character 
which the author of this book intends us to 
take is quite impossible for any one who 
knows anything of Christian morality ; but 
on the supposition that the writer of this 
book is inspired of God, his view of the 
character must of course be taken. 

It is not good for us to try to justify or 
to excuse such conduct as this, or to think 
about it in the way that the author of this 
book thinks about it. And we may say that 
this book is chiefly useful as a dark back- 
ground on which we may see more clearly 
the brightness of the Christian morality. 
The character of Esther serves us best when 
we think of it as a type of womanhood, 
once deemed admirable, which Jesus Christ 
has made it impossible for us to regard 
with any other feelings than wonder and 
pity. Perhaps his eye was on this book 
when He said : " Ye have heard that it was 
said. Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate 
thine enemy, but I say unto you love your 


enemies, and pray for them that persecute 
you, that you may be sons of your Father in 
heaven ; for He maketh his sun to shine on 
the evil and the good, and sendeth his rain 
on the just and the unjust." 



The book of Job consists o£ ^ve parts. 
Tbe first part, or prologue, which occupies 
the first two chapters, is in prose. It intro- 
duces to us a man of Uz, an Arabian emir 
of great wealth and probity, " the greatest 
of all the sons of the East," — a man who 
was " perfect and upright, one who feared 
God and eschewed evil. And there were 
born unto him seven sons and three daugh- 
ters. His substance also was seven thou- 
sand sheep and three thousand camels and 
four hundred yoke of oxen and Rve hun- 
dred she asses and a very great household." 
He is represented as a man of great piety, 
careful to observe not only the law of right- 
eousness, but the ceremonial requirements 
as well. 

From this glimpse of a great and fortu- 
nate human personality, the scene suddenly 
changes to the heavenly courts where Jeho- 
vah is seated on his throne, and " the sons 


of God," who appear to be his angelic at- 
tendants, present themselves before Him. 
" And Satan came also among them." This 
Satan of the Book of Job is by no means 
the Prince of Darkness of whom we read 
in later Scriptures ; he is that one of the 
officials of the court of heaven whose duty- 
it is to question the claims of men to the 
favor of God, and to prevent the unworthy 
from sharing his blessings. The conversa- 
tion between Jehovah and Satan respecting 
the character of job is reported. Jehovah 
asserts the integrity of his servant Job ; 
Satan questions it, asserting that Job is not 
disinterested ; that adversity would disturb 
his loyalty. Jehovah gives Satan full power 
to test the patriarch's character by the dir- 
est calamities ; but when all his vast wealth 
has been swept away and his sons and daugh- 
ters have been torn from him, his answer is, 
" The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken 
away ; blessed be the name of the Lord. " 

Again the council of heaven is convened, 
and the Adversary returns to confess him- 
self foiled by Job's fidelity, but to urge 
that the infliction upon him of the terrible 
physical curse of elephantiasis will weaken 
his allegiance. Still Job endures his suffer- 

JOB 99 

ing without outcry. Montlis pass by; his 
condition is known to all his friends. At 
last three of them came to visit him, " every 
one from his own place : Eliphaz the Te- 
manite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar 
the Naamathite ; and they made an appoint- 
ment together to bemoan him and to comfort 
him. And when they lifted up their eyes 
afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up 
their voice and wept. And they rent every 
one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon 
their heads toward heaven. So they sat 
down with him upon the ground, seven days 
and seven nights, and none spake a word 
unto him, for they saw that his grief was 

Thus ends the prologue. The second 
part comprises the body of the book, and is 
in poetry. It is a great debate, a series of 
speeches, in which Job's three friends dis- 
cuss with him the significance of his calam- 
ities. This dialogue is introduced by a sol- 
emn malediction pronounced by Job upon the 
day of his birth. Then follow three cycles of 
speeches, each cycle consisting of six. Each 
of the three friends delivers his thought, 
and is replied to by Job. Eliphaz speaks 
and Job answers ; then Bildad speaks and 


Job answers : then Zophar speaks and Job 
answers. And this order is thrice repeated, 
although, owing to some errors and trans- 
positions of copyists, the last triplet appears 
in our Bibles to be an imperfect one. 

After these three rounds of high debate, 
another character introduces himself and 
with himself the third part of the book. It 
is Elihu, who is represented as a young 
man with ideas of his own on this transcen- 
dent theme. He has been listening to the 
others and conceives that he can add some- 
thing to what has been said. In the midst 
of his speech a storm has been gathering, 
and out of the storm and the whirlwind is 
heard the voice of the Almighty rebuking 
the superficialities of all who have spoken, 
and flooding the whole theme with light 
from the eternities. The sublime utterance 
of the Most High constitutes the fourth part 
of the book. 

When this august voice has ceased we 
hear, in the silence, a few contrite words 
from Job, and then follows the fifth part of 
the book, the epilogue, in prose, which nar- 
rates the restoration to Job of health and 
prosperity. The three self-constituted cen- 
sors are rebuked by Jehovah for not speak- 

JOB 101 

hig the tiling tliat is right concerning God 
as his servant Job has done. His friends 
now return to him, and eat bread in his 
house ; every man brings him a piece of 
money and every man a ring of gold. "So 
the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more 
than his beginning: and he had fourteen 
thousand sheep and six thousand camels and 
a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand she 
asses. He had also seven sons and three 
daughters. And he called the name of the 
first Jemimah, the name of the second Ke- 
ziah, and the name of the third Keren-hap- 
puch. And in all the land were no women 
found so fair as the daughters of Job : and 
their father gave them inheritance among 
their brethren. And after this Job lived a 
hundred and forty years, and saw his sons 
and his sons' sons, even four generations. 
So Job died, being old and full of days.'* 

The first question before us is whether 
this book is a recital of facts which actually 
occurred and a report of speeches actually 
made, or whether it is a work of the imagi- 
nation. The general belief has been that it 
is purely historical ; that a man named Job 
lived in the land of Uz, which is supposed 
to have been the northern part of Arabia ; 


that the conversation concerning him be- 
tween Jehovah and Satan actually took place 
as here reported : that the calamities here 
narrated overtook him, exactly as here de- 
scribed ; that then his three friends whose 
names are accurately given came and sat 
silent with him on the ground for seven days 
and seven nights, after which the colloquy 
here given took place in the words here re- 

This theory of the book, which has been 
held, I suppose, for substance, by most Pro- 
testant readers, is burdened with some diffi- 
culties. In the first place, all the narrative 
portions seem to be constructed after an 
ideal or artificial plan ; it seems remarkable 
that in each of the four great catastrophes 
by which his property was swept away and 
his family destroyed, there was just one sur- 
vivor left to tell the tale. God's providences 
do not ordinarily operate by a rule so exact 
and mathematical. It seems also remark- 
able that in the two reported conversations 
between the Almighty and the Adversary, 
exactly the same words should have been 
used each time. The constant use of the 
symbolical numbers, three, Gre and seven ; 
and the statement that after his restoration 

JOB 103 

he had exactly as many children as he had 
before, the sexes being represented as before, 
while his flocks and herds numbered exactly 
twice as many, indicates that we are not 
dealing with historical occurrences, but with 
a work of the imagination. 

Furthermore, it is not at all probable that 
four real men ever came together, in any 
country in any age, and talked to one another 
after the manner of these four men. For 
this is poetry of the most elaborate and or- 
nate character ; it represents the finest kind 
of literary art, and men do not carry on con- 
versations in language of this description, no 
matter how cultivated they may be nor how 
deeply they may be moved by thought or 
passion. Scott gives us in " The Lady of the 
Lake " some animated conversations between 
Fitz James and Roderick Dhu; but I sup- 
pose that no reader imagines that the two 
chiefs — if they ever existed — really talked 
to each other in just that language, in per- 
fect rhythm and resounding rhyme. Shake- 
speare gives us in Julius Caesar some eloquent 
controversy between Brutus, Cassius, Marc 
Antony, and others ; but we do not con- 
ceive that it is a stenographic report of what 
was said on those occasions. When we find 


language of this description put into the 
mouths of men in a book, we do not, outside 
of the Bible, ordinarily suppose that we are 
reading the very words of the speakers. 

But it may be said that these were in- 
spired men; and that if God inspires a 
man. He can just as well inspire him to talk 
poetry as plain prose. To this it may be 
replied that these men, according to the 
story itself, could not have been inspired. 
Leaving Job out of the account for the 
present, we may safely affirm that Eliphaz 
the Temanite was not an inspired man ; 
neither was Bildad the Shuhite, nor Zophar 
the Naamathite. These characters are all, 
in the last part of the book, sharply re- 
buked by Jehovah himself for having dark- 
ened counsel by words without knowledge ; 
for having spoken concerning God the 
thing that was not right. Their whole line 
of argument is condemned and set aside 
by the Almighty Himself. We can hardly 
suppose that God inspired them to speak 
error and then rebuked them for speaking 
it. No : there could have been nothing 
supernatural about the speech of these men, 
if, according to the supposition we are now 
considering, they were real men. And real 

JOB 105 

men do not, without supernatural aid, make 
use in conversation of language like this. 
The dialogue, as Dr. Driver says, " contains 
far too much thought and argument to have 
been extemporized on the occasion, and is 
manifestly the studied product of the au- 
thor's leisurely reflection." 

It seems almost puerile to argue a point 
like this ; and yet the suggestion that we 
are dealing here with a great dramatic 
poem — a work of the imagination — is re- 
garded by many pious people at this day 
with consternation. A neighboring pastor 
told me of the alarm which a remark of this 
kind created among his flock. "Job a 
dramatic poem ! A dramatic poem in the 
Bible ! " There are those to whom a state- 
ment of this nature appears to be little 
short of blasphemy. They want to know if 
you think that the book is all a lie. No : it 
is not all a lie. Bunyan's " Pilgrim's Pro- 
gress " is not all a lie. The story of the 
Good Samaritan is not all a lie. The au- 
thor of the Book of Job was not telling lies 
when he fashioned the framework of this 
story and constructed the simple dramatic 
machinery by means of which his great 
thoughts were to be set forth. Undoubtedly 




he supposed that his book would be read by 
persons of ordinary common sense. Prob- 
ably it never once entered his mind that any- 
body would ever take his work for a literal 
history, any more than it occurred to Shake- 
speare, when he wrote " The Tempest," that 
any one would accept it as a recital of facts 
which actually occurred, and of speeches 
which were really made. Outside of the 
Bible we are able, usually, to use our rea- 
soning powers in the interpretation of liter- 
ature ; very small children soon learn to 
distinguish between fact and fancy. It is 
high time that we had learned that the 
collection of books which we call the Bible 
contains a great many kinds of literature, — 
history, law, philosophy, poetry, essays, ser- 
mons, stories, — and that we must learn to 
apply to each the canons appropriate for 
the judgment of that class of writings to 
which it clearly belongs. We must not 
read hymns as if they were sermons, or 
essays as if they were laws, or fiction as if 
it were history. We must try to get the 
point of view of the writer, and understand 
the purpose he has in view, and the method 
by which he is working. When we are 
once able to get into our minds a few of 

JOB 107 

these very rudimentary ideas about literary 
form, we shall be able to realize that the 
author of the Book of Job is neither a 
historian nor a liar, but a poet, a great 
dramatic poet, who is able to use his art, 
under divine inspiration, for the most sub- 
lime purposes. 

There has been much speculation about 
the date at which the poem was written, 
and the matter is not well settled. It is an 
interesting but not an important question. 
My own opinion is that it was written dur- 
ing or after the exile, — that it is a compar- 
atively late book. Eespecting its authorship 
we have absolutely no knowledge. There was 
an old tradition that Moses wrote it, which 
is of course even more absurd than the the- 
ory that Bacon wrote the plays of Shake- 
speare. It must have been written long 
after the people of Israel had dwelt in their 
own land. Walled cities are familiar to 
the writer ; he lives in a community of 
which kings, princes, nobles, counsellors, 
judges, are the ornaments ; there must be 
a settled government. " Courts," says Mr. 
Raymond, " are called by notice given ; 
criminals are arrested ; complaints are heard ; 
lawsuits are conducted concerning disputed 


inheritances ; the magistrate, sitting in the 
gate, makes summary judgment ; witnesses 
testify ; sureties are offered for accused 
parties ; accusers present their charges in 
writing ; the prison and the stocks await the 
condemned, or capital punishment is in- 
flicted by the sword. . . . Yet the tone of 
society seems to be demoralized. The judges 
are bribed by the rich to wrong the poor ; 
the sins denounced in public are practiced 
secretly ; slaves are cruelly wronged ; the 
victims of power are oppressed ; men ad- 
mire and are fain to imitate the successful 
tyrant." ^ All this is found in the book 
itself, in picture and simile and allusion. 
Such a state of society was present to the 
mind of the writer, and also to the minds 
of those for whom he wrote, else his book 
would not have been intelligible to them. 
This takes us down into the time of the 
kingdom, and probably to the later years of 
the kingdom. 

It is, however, remarkable that the whole 
ecclesiastical and liturgical machinery of the 
Jewish church is ignored by this writer. It 
did not suit his purposes to deal with the 
ritualistic side of religion ; he was studying 

1 The Booh of Job, pp. 31, 32. 

JOB 109 

a question in which the introduction of that 
element would only confuse thought; he 
shows his great skill in passing it by. 

When we speak of this as a dramatic 
poem, and a work of the imagination, it is 
not necessary to deny that it may have a 
historical foundation. " Hamlet " rests on a 
historical foundation ; so does " Macbeth ; " 
yet they are works of imagination. " The 
Ring and the Book" is founded on fact; 
Mr. Browning dug the substance of the story 
out of an old law report. In Ezekiel Job is 
referred to as if he were a well-known person. 
It is possible, of course, that the allusion 
here may be literary. We often speak of 
Polonius, or Colonel Newcome, or Mr. Pick- 
wick as though they were real characters. 
It is, however, altogether probable that Job 
was an historical person, and that traditions 
concerning him were current among the 
Jews. "To determine," says Dr. Driver, 
" precisely what elements in the book be- 
long to tradition is, of course, no longer pos- 
sible. But probably tradition told at least 
as much as that Job, a man of exceptional 
piety, was overtaken by unparalleled mis- 
fortunes ; that he broke out into complaint 
against God's providence, and refused to be 


satisfied or calmed by the arguments of his 
friends, but that he never absolutely dis- 
carded his faith in God, and was finally re- 
stored to his former prosperity. This his- 
tory is made by tlie author of the book the 
vehicle for expounding his new thoughts on 
the religious and ethical significance of suf- 
fering." 1 

For this is the great theme of the book. 
Job, as the prologue tells us, bore the heavy 
calamities that befell him without a word of 
murmuring. He did not understand this 
dispensation, but he was silent ; he could 
have said of himself what the Psalmist 
said : " I was dumb ; I opened not my 
mouth, because thou didst it." But when 
his three friends came and sat down around 
him on the ground and looked at him for 
seven days without opening their lips, he 
lost control of himself and cursed, not God, 
but his own bitter existence : — 

"Let the day perish wherein I was born, 
And the night which said, there is a man child conceived. 
Let that day be darkness ; 
Let not God regard it from above, 
Neither let the light shine upon it ! 

Let darkness and the shadow of death claim it for their 

^ Introduction^ p. 387. 

JOB 111 

Let a cloud dwell upon it ! 

Let all that maketh black the day terrify it ! 

Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery 

And life unto the bitter in soul ? 

Which long for death, but it cometh not. 

And dig for it more than for hid treasures, 

Which rejoice exceedingly 

And are glad when they can find the grave." 

This outburst of Job's passionate com- 
plaining unmuzzles his three friends, and 
they proceed, in order, to deal out to him 
their admonition. For as Dr. Davidson 
says, they had not come simply for purposes 
of condolence. " Along with their pity they 
had brought their theology with them, and 
they trusted to heal Job's malady with this." 
We may picture the characters of these three 
friends, as revealed in their words. 

" Eliphaz," says Canon Cook, " represents 
the true patriarchal chieftain, grave and 
dignified, and erring only from an exclusive 
adherence to tenets hitherto unquestioned, 
and influenced in the first place by a genuine 
regard for Job and sympathy with his afflic- 
tion. Bildad, without much originality or 
independence of character, reposes partly on 
the wise laws of antiquity, partly on the 
authority of his older friend. Zophar dif- 
fers from both; he seems to be a young 


man ; his language is violent and at some 
times even coarse and offensive. He repre- 
sents the prejudiced and narrow-minded 
bigots of his age." That is one conjecture. 
You can judge for yourselv^es whether it is 
reasonable. The theology which the three 
friends have brought with them assumes 
that human suffering is always the penalty of 
sin ; that the existence of suffering is there- 
fore the clear indication of sin ; that Job's 
great afflictions prove him to be a great sin- 
ner, and that he ought to repent and humble 
himself before God that his sins may be for- 
given and his sufferings removed. So Eli- 
phaz urges in his first speech : — 

** Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being in- 
Or when were the upright cut off ? 
According as I have seen, they that plow iniquity 
And sow trouble, they reap the same. 
By the breath of God they perish 
And by the blast of his anger are they consumed." 

As for me I would seek unto God, 

And unto God would I commit my cause." 

Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth ; 
Therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty, 
For he maketh sore and bindeth up. 
He woundeth, and his hands make whole." 

Beginning in this rather diplomatic man- 

JOB 113 

ner, these three friends press upon Job, 
through thirty chapters of this book, their 
theory that his sufferings are evidence of 
grievous iniquity for which he should be 
duly penitent. 

Job answers all this pious exhortation 
sternly and stoutly and bitterly. He does 
not, probably, intend to deny that he some- 
times errs, though he does apply to himself 
the adjective " perfect " with which he is de- 
scribed in the first verse of the book. But 
he knows that he is not such a sinner above 
all others, as that he should suffer these un- 
paralleled disasters and miseries. He main- 
tains his own integrity. He denies that 
these evils can have been justly inflicted 
upon him by his Maker. The doctrine that 
all suffering is punishment he indignantly 
repudiates. And when his friends press it 
upon him more and strenuously he rouses 
himself and denies more hotly than a good 
man should. Bildad has said, 

"Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, 
Neither will he uphold the evil doers." 

Nay, says Job : — 

" He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked; 
If the scourge slay suddenly, 
He will mock at the calamity of the innocent. 
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked." 


To this fact of the success and prosperity 
of bad men Job returns again and again. 
His friends keep asserting that the good are 
always prosperous and the wicked always 
unfortunate, and Job with the utmost vehe- 
mence denies it. 

*' Wherefore do the wicked live, 
Become old, yea wax mighty in power ? 
Their seed is established with them iu their sight, 
And their offspring before their eyes. 
Their houses are safe from fear, 
Neither is the rod of God upon them. 
They send forth their little ones like a flock, 
And their children dance. 
They sing to the timbrel and harp, 
And rejoice at the sound of the pipe. 

Yet they said unto God, Depart from us. 

For we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." 

Job loses all patience with his three friends 
because they refuse to recognize this palpa- 
ble truth. He more than intimates that 
their words are cant ; that they are syco- 
phants in the presence of the Almighty 
Power. And his exasperation with their 
special pleading is such that he is driven 
into an attitude of bitter complaining not 
only against his fate, but against God, who 
has suffered these calamities to come upon 

JOB 115 

" God delivereth me to the ungodly, 
And casteth me into the hands of the wicked. 
I was at ease and he brake me asunder ; 
Yea he hath taken me by the neck and dashed me to 

He hath also set me up for his mark. 
His archers compass me round about, 
He cleaveth my reins asunder and doth not spare, 
He poureth out my gall upon the ground, 
He breaketh me with breach upon breach, 
He runneth upon me like a giant. 
I have sowed sackcloth upon my skin, 
And have laid my horn in the dust, 
My face is foul with weeping, 
And on my eyelids is the shadow of death, 
Although there is no violence in mine hands 
And my prayer is pure. 
O earth, cover not thou my blood 
And let my cry have no resting place ! " 

What a tragical appeal it is — to the 
dumb earth, to keep his blood-stains fresh in 
the sight of heaven, and to the vital air not 
to let his bitter wail die into silence ! 

Job recognizes the power of God ; he 
knows that any resistance to God's power 
is vain; but God's justice he openly chal- 
lenges. And he begs for the privilege of 
standing before God and pleading his own 
cause : — 

" that I knew where I might find him, 
That I might come even to his seat. 
I would order my cause before him 
And fill my mouth with arguments." 


Sometimes he seems to despair utterly, 
and some of the expressions of confidence 
which the old version put into his mouth 
are of doubtful genuineness. Thus the 
phrase " Though he slay me, yet will I trust 
in him," — which has so long been quoted 
as the triumph of his faith, — is now more 
carefully translated, " He will slay me ; I 
have no hope." Yet now and then he seems 
to feel that an end must come to these 
sufferings, and that his wrongs will be 

' ' He knoweth the way that I take. 
When he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold." 

And in one great outburst of the larger 
hope he seems to see a future deliver- 
ance : — 

" that my words were inscribed in a book, 
That with an iron pen and lead 
They were graven in the rock forever. 
But I know that my Vindicator liveth 
And that he shall stand up at the last upon the earth, 
And after my skin hath been thus destroyed 
Yet from my flesh shall I see God, 
Whom I shall see for myself 
And mine eyes shall behold and not another." 

This great confession of faith has usually 
been supposed to refer to deliverance in a 
future life, and this may be the meaning ; 

JOB 117 

but it seems more natural to me to interpret 
it as the expectation of vindication here. 
Even though the loathsome disease from 
which he is suffering may destroy his skin, 
yet from the flesh he will behold the ap- 
pearance of God as his vindicator. 

The twenty-ninth, thirtieth, and thirty-first 
chapters contain Job's final summing' up of 
his own case. He looks back to the day 
when he was loved of God and honored of 
men ; he contrasts with that happy fortune 
the misery and contempt into which he is 
now fallen, and then he utters his last solemn 
and splendid assertion of his own blameless- 
ness of life. As Dr. Driver says : " The 
chapter is a remarkable one ; it contains the 
portrait of a character instinct with nobil- 
ity and delicacy of feeling, which not only 
repudiates any overt act of violence or 
wrong but also disowns all secret impulses 
to impure or dishonorable conduct." This 
picture which Job here gives us of his own 
life is one of the noblest in all literature. 
It is the likeness of a gentleman, a noble- 
man, a pure and blameless knight of God ; 
there is no man of this generation who could 
think of a higher honor than to be able with 
truth to repeat these words of Job : — 


*' If I have walked with vanity 
And my foot hath hasted to deceit ; 

If my step hath turned out of the way 

And mine heart walked after mine eyes, 

And if any spot hath cleaved to my hands, 

Then let me sow and another eat, 

Yea let the produce of my field be rooted out. 

If I did despise the cause of my manservant 

Or my maidservant when they contended with m.e, 

What then shall I do when God riseth up ? 

And when he visiteth, what shall I answer him ? 

Did not he that made m.e in the womb make him ? 

If I have withheld the poor from their desire, 
Or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail. 
Or have eaten my morsel alone 
And the fatherless hath not eaten thereof, — 

If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, 

Or that the needy had no covering ; 

If his loins have not blessed me. 

And if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep, 

If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless. 

Because I saw my help in the gate ; 

Then let mj shoulder fall from the shoulder blade, 

And mine arm be broken from the bone. 

If I have made gold my hope, 

And have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence ; 

If I rejoiced because my wealth was great 

And because my hand had gotten much, 

If I beheld the sun when it shined 

Or the moon walking in brightness 

And my heart hath been secretly enticed. 

And my mouth hath kissed my hand, 

This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judges : 

JOB 119 

For I should have lied to God that is above. 

If I rejoiced at the destmction of him that hated me, 

Or lifted up myself when evil found him ; 

If my land cry out ag-ainst me 

And the furrows thereof weep together ; 

If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money 

Or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life : 

Let thistles grow instead of wheat 

And cockle instead of barley." 

At the conclusion of this noble speech is 
the simple rubric : " The words of Job are 

Elihu, who seems to have been a by- 
stander, now steps forth, and delivers his 
judgment on this weighty theme. " Against 
Job," it is said, " his wrath was kindled, 
because he justified himself rather than 
God. Also against his three friends was 
his wrath kindled because they had found 
no answer [to Job's argument] and yet had 
condemned Job." Speaking thus, in his 
warmth, Elihu unfolds his theory, which 
is certainly far more reasonable than that 
of the three friends, that suffering is not 
always punitive, but that it is disciplinary ; 
not penalty but chastening. Mr. Moulton 
in his analysis divides this speech into 
three parts : in the first he puts this theory 
of his in an address to Job, but Job does 


not respond ; then he turns to the three 
friends, and seeks their approval, but they 
are silent ; then he looks up to heaven *' and 
finds in the sky a fresh text for the great- 
ness of God. While he is gazing upon it 
the sky shows signs of change and the 
tokens of a rising storm mingle with his 

Finally out of the storm and the whirl- 
wind speaks the voice of God in one of the 
most sublime portrayals of the wonder and 
majesty of the creation that has ever been 

" Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the 

earth ? 
Declare, if thou hast understanding-. 

Who determined the measures thereof, if thou knowest ? 
Or who stretched the line upon it ? 
Whereupon were the foundations thereof fastened ? 
Or who laid the corner stone thereof 
When the morning-stars sang- tog'ether 
And all the sons of God shouted for joy ? 

" Or who shut up the sea with doors 

When it brake forth and issued out of the womb ? 

When I made the cloud the garment thereof 

And thick darkness a swaddling band for it, 

And prescribed for it my decree 

And set bars and doors 

And said. Hitherto shalt thou come but no further 

And here shall thy proud waves be stayed ? 

JOB 121 

Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days be- 
And caused the dayspring" to know its place ; 
That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, 
And the wicked be shaken out of it ? 

Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea ? 
Or hast thou walked in the recesses of the deep ? 
Have the gates of death been revealed unto thee, 
Or hast thou seen the gates of the shadow of death ? 
Hast thou comprehended the breadth of the earth ? 
Declare, if thou knowest it all. 
Where is the way to the dwelling of light, 
And as for darkness, where is the place thereof; 

Who hath cleft a channel for the waterflood, 
Or a way for the lightning of the thunder, 
To cause it to rain on a land where no man is, 
On the wilderness where there is no man, 
To satisfy the waste and desolate ground, 
And to cause the tender grass to spring forth ? 

Canst thou bind the cluster of the Pleiades 

Or loose the bands of Orion ? 

Canst thou lead forth the signs of the Zodiac in their 

season ? 
Or canst thou guide the Bear with her train ? 
Knowest thou the ordinances of the heavens ? 
Canst thou establish the dominion thereof in the earth ? 
Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds 
That abundance of waters may cover thee ? 
Canst thou send forth lightnings that they may go, 
And say unto thee, Here we are ? " 

The whole recital of the wonders of the 
creation so impresses Job with the wisdom 


and greatness of the Creator that he is awed 
into silence and humility. The problem of 
suffering has not been solved, but the truth 
is borne into his mind that the universe is 
too vast for a mortal to criticise, that he can 
comprehend neither its evil nor its good. 
The conclusion to which he is forced is that 
which Carlyle says will overpower the mind 
of any man, if he will stop and think about 
it, — that the Creation is " an unspeakable, 
godlike thing, towards which the best atti- 
tude for us, after never so much science, is 
awe, devout prostration, and humility of soul, 
— worship, if not in words, then in silence." 
And this is really the lesson of the book. 
Job's friends are sharply reproved by Jeho- 
vah, in the epilogue, for not having said 
about him the thing that is right ; and Job, 
though rebuked by Jehovah for his temerity 
in challenging the divine justice, is com- 
mended for refusing to believe that the suf- 
ferings of men are always a sign of God's 
displeasure. Why good men suffer, the 
book does not tell us ; it states the whole 
problem with wonderful breadth, but it 
leaves us with the understanding that the 
reasons, in any given case, are apt to be 
shrouded in mystery ; that there is nothing 

JOB 123 

for us to do but to put our trust in the infi- 
nite wisdom and goodness. 

Tlius it appears that the Divine Wisdom 
is represented as sweeping aside the whole 
argument of the thirty-five preceding chap- 
ters, — not only the theology of the three 
friends, but in large part also Job's answers. 
Of course much truth has been uttered by 
all these speakers ; many wise and beautiful 
things have been said by all of them, for 
much truth may be uttered in support of a 
false proposition ; it is true, but it does not 
apply to the case in hand ; truth is stated, but 
false conclusions are drawn from it. The 
three friends had spoken many wise words, 
and Job had spoken some unwise ones ; none 
of them was wholly right. The testimony 
of Jehovah declares that in the main con- 
tention Job has been nearer right than his 
friends have been. But the whole contro- 
versy had been on the wrong track and had 
failed of disentangling the truth. If the 
author of this book expresses in any part of 
it the mind of the Holy Spirit, it is proba- 
ble that he expresses it in the words which 
he puts into the mouth of Jehovah ; and if 
these words are true, the thirty-five chapters 
preceding them are certainly not infallible 


teaching. There is a great deal that is true 
and beautiful in them, but we must learn 
how to separate the truth from the error 
with which it is mingled. 

The great lesson of the book is, as I have 
said, that God's ways are inscrutable ; that 
we cannot always interpret his providences ; 
that good men suffer in this world as well as 
evil men ; that when one is overtaken by 
sudden misfortune we have no right to con- 
clude that God is angry with him, or that he 
is any greater sinner than his prosperous 

But there is another lesson not much less 
important. Professor Moulton states it 
thus : " The strong faith of Job which could 
even reproach God, as a friend reproaches 
a friend, was more acceptable to Him than 
the servile adoration which sought to twist 
the truth in order to magnify God." And 
Professor Green of Princeton thus states it : 
The three friends " had really inculpated 
the providence of God by their professed 
defense of it. By disingenuously covering 
up and ignoring its enigmas and seeming 
contradictions they had cast more discredit 
upon it than Job by honestly holding them 
up to the light. Their denial of its appar- 

JOB 125 

ent inequalities was more untrue and more 
dishonoring to the divine administration, as 
it is in fact conducted, than Job's bold affir- 
mation of them." 

Wise words are these, sound words, per- 
tinent and timely words. Lying for God 
is a poor way of proving your loyalty to 

Does not the same principle apply to the 
current discussion about the Bible ? Are not 
those who are " disingenuously covering up 
and ignoring its enigmas and seeming con- 
tradictions " casting " more discredit upon 
it " than are those who are " honestly hold- 
ing them up to the light " ? Is not the denial 
of its palpable inaccuracies and human ele- 
ments more dishonorable to the Bible than 
the bold affirmation of them ? Is it not, in 
short, as safe to tell the truth about God's 
book as about God's providence? There 
are those who suppose that they are showing 
their reverence for the Bible by quibbling 
and evasion, and the concealment of the 
truth. But the Bible itself, through the 
book of Job, by the very lips of the Most 
High, administers to these shifty defenders a 
sharp rebuke. It is to be hoped that they 
will heed it. 


I am conscious that I have given to this 
noble book but a lame and fragmentary 
treatment. Very little of its beauty and 
inspiration have I been able to bring you ; 
for though these words are largely the speech 
of erring men, they are words out of which 
we can draw a great deal of divine wisdom. 
The whole atmosphere of the book is pure 
and quickening ; how different from that of 
Esther or of the Judges ! We are lifted to 
a lofty plane of thought ; we are confronted 
with the sublimest realities ; we are awed 
and humbled and comforted. One can quite 
assent to Carlyle's strong assertion that 
"there is nothing written, in the Bible or 
out of it, of equal literary merit," and the 
spiritual power is not less than the literary 
beauty. " One feels indeed," he says, " as 
if it were not Hebrew ; such a noble uni- 
versality, different from noble patriotism or 
sectarianism, dwells in it. A noble book; 
all men's book ! It is our first, oldest state- 
ment of the never-ending problem — man's 
destiny, and God's ways with him here on 
this earth. And all in such free, flowing 
outlines ; grand in its sincerity, in its sim- 
plicity, in its epic melody and repose of 
reconcilement. There is the seeing eye, the 


mildly understanding heart. So true every- 
way ; true eyesight and vision for all things, 
material things no less than spiritual; the 
horse, — hast thou clothed his neck with 
thunder? he laughs at the shaking of the 
spear ! Such living likenesses were never 
since drawn. Sublime sorrow, sublime re- 
conciliation ; oldest choral melody as of the 
heart of mankind, — so soft and great ; as 
the summer midnight, as the world with its 
seas and stars." ^ 

1 On Heroes, Lecture 11. 


The Hebrew name of the book of Eccle- 
siastes is Koheleth, It is derived from a 
verb which means to assemble, to call to- 
gether ; it appears, therefore, to have some- 
thing to do with a congregation. Some of 
the old interpreters, as Luther, conceived 
that it must describe the presiding officer or 
teacher of the congregation ; hence Luther 
called the Book " Prediger^^ or Preacher, — 
" Der Prediger Salomo.^'' Our old version 
follows this rendering, and calls Koheleth 
Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher. It is an open 
question whether this conveys the true mean- 
ing of the Hebrew. Perhaps the assembly- 
alluded to meets not for instruction, but for 
discussion ; and Koheleth may, as Plumptre 
suggests, mean debater or reasoner, rather 
than preacher, — one who discusses with 
some philosophic bent the great question 
whether life is worth living. 

It has been assumed that Ecclesiastes, or 


Koheleth, is King Solomon. That was the 
Jewish tradition, and Christian scholars of 
a former day generally accepted it. One 
of the things, however, that modern scholar- 
ship has found out is that Jewish tradition 
is not always trustworthy. When we exam- 
ine the reasons given in the ancient Jewish 
writings for the acceptance of these tradi- 
tions, we often discover that they are base- 
less ; they rest, in many instances, on the 
most fantastic and whimsical evidences. 
The fact that Jewish tradition ascribes the 
book to Solomon is not, then, conclusive 
evidence that he wrote it. But the book 
itself, it is said, names him as its author. 
Its first sentence is, "The words of Kohe- 
leth, the son of David, king in Jerusalem." 
No other son of David but Solomon was 
ever king in Jerusalem. And in the twelfth 
verse of the first chapter we read : "I, Ko- 
heleth, was king over Israel in Jerusalem." 
This explicit testimony of the writer, it is 
argued, must settle the question, proving that 
the author of the book was Solomon, the son 
of David, king of Jerusalem. 

But the speaker, in any literary work, is 
not always the writer. David Copperfield 
is the speaker in the book that bears that 


name, but the book was not written by Da- 
vid Copperfield. Even if a book bears the 
name of a historical person, and that person 
is represented as speaking, we do not always 
know that this person wrote the book. Fra 
Lippo Lippi is a historical person; I have 
seen pictures that he painted ; and there is 
a poem which bears his name, and in which 
he is represented as speaking, but he did not 
write the poem. Robert Browning wrote it. 
The same is true of many poems of Brown- 
ing in which historical persons are the sole 
speakers, — Andrea del Sarto, Saul, Rabbi 
Ben Ezra, and others. And a more signi- 
ficant instance is found in the Apology 
of Socrates, familiar to most of us, — the 
death song of one of the noblest spirits that 
has lived on the earth. This apology is all in 
the first person, and Socrates is the speaker ; 
but the writer of the book is not Socrates, 
it is Plato. Doubtless Plato gives us the 
spirit of the last plea of Socrates, but it is 
in his own language. Now it is certainly 
possible that we have in this book of Eccle- 
siastes an example of this form of literature, 
in which a historical person is made the 
mouthpiece of the author, through whom he 
expresses his views of life. 


In the case of this book, as in that of Job, 
a crude and ignorant literalism has obscured 
the origin of the book, and given vogue for 
centuries to theories which are even child- 
ishly erroneous. It has been asserted that 
if the book is not the work of Solomon, it is 
a literary imposture. But Dean Plumptre 
has all literature behind him when he says : 
" With some writers of the highest genius, as 
with Robert Browning or Tennyson, a mon- 
ologue or soliloquy of this character has 
been a favorite form of composition. The 
speeches in Herodotus and Thucydides, the 
Apologies written in the name of Socrates 
by Xenophon and Plato, the Dialogues of 
Plato throughout, are instances in which no 
one would dream of imputing fraud to the 
writers, though in all these cases we have, 
with scarcely the shadow of a doubt, the 
words of the writers and not of the men whom 
they represent as speaking. The most de- 
cisive, and in that sense crucial instance of 
such authorship is found, however, in the 
book which presents so striking a parallel 
to Ecclesiastes, the Apocryphal ' Wisdom 
of Solomon.' There also, both in the title 
and the body of the book, the writer identi- 
fies himself with the Son of David. It was 


quoted by early Greek and Latin Fathers as 
by Solomon. . . . No one now dreams of 
ascribing it to Solomon. No one has ever 
ventured to characterize it as a fraudulent 
imposture. It has been quoted reverentially 
by many Protestant writers, cited as Scrip- 
ture by many of the Fathers, placed by the 
Church of Rome in the Canon of Scripture, 
and recognized by Church of England crit- 
ics as entitled to a high place of honor 
among the books which they receive as deu- 
tero-canonical." ^ 

It is possible, then, to regard this book as 
the work of some later author, who has 
chosen to put his own thoughts into the 
mouth of Solomon. Let us see whether 
there are any facts which support this hy- 

If Solomon the great king of Israel did 
write this book, is it not somewhat strange 
that in all the books, of the Bible written 
after Solomon's day — the histories, the 
books of the prophets — there is not a single 
reference or allusion to it ? Does it not seem 
probable that if any writings of their great- 
est king had been in existence, they would 

1 " Introduction to Ecclesiastes," in Cambridge Bible, 
pp. 20, 21. 


have been known to these prophets and his- 
torians, and that some one of them would 
have been apt to allude to them ? But you 
search the Old Testament in vain for any 
reference to this book. " Absolutely the 
first external evidence which we have of its 
existence," says Dean Plumptre, " is found 
in a Talmudic report of a discussion (dur- 
ing the century before the birth of Christ) 
between the two schools of Hillel and of 
Schammai, as to its admission into the 
Canon of the Sacred Books. It was debated 
under the singular form of the question 
whether the Song of Songs and Koheleth 
polluted the hands, — i. e. whether they were 
so sacred that it was a sacrilege for common 
or unclean hands to touch them. Some 
took one side, some another. . . . Different 
rabbis held different opinions. So again 
another Talmudic tract reports that the 
' wise men wanted to declare Koheleth apoc- 
ryphal because its statements contradicted 
each other,' — and that they did so because 
' they found in it sentiments that tended to 
infidelity.' " ^ Is it probable that a book 
which had come down from the age of Solo- 
mon, with the clear testimony of his author- 
^ Op. cit, p. 21. 


ship, and had for nine centuries been attrib- 
uted to him, would, in the century before 
Christ, have been attacked and challenged 
in this way by the Jewish rabbis ? As Dr. 
Plumptre says : " Such a discussion, in such 
a case, would have been an example of a 
bold criticism which has no parallel in the 
history of that period of Jewish thought." 

The book itself contains certain state- 
ments which are inconsistent with the the- 
ory of a Solomonic authorship. In the first 
chapter we read : " I, Koheleth, was king 
over Israel in Jerusalem." How could Sol- 
omon have written that ? Was there a time 
in his life when he was not king ? " The 
tense of the verb in ' I was king over Israel ' 
can only carry the sense ' I was king, but am 
king no more.' " ^ He says : " I communed 
with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I have got- 
ten me great wisdom above all that were he- 
fore me in Jerusalem. . . . Also I had great 
possessions of herds and flocks above all 
that were before me in Jerusalem." But 
there had been no one before Solomon in 
Jerusalem except his father, who captured 
the stronghold and held it during his reign. 
" AH " is a strange word .for Solomon to 
^ Cox's EcdesiasteSi p. 15. 


use in such a connection. The expression 
is one that a later writer, looking back on 
a long line of kings who had reigned in 
Jerusalem, might have carelessly used ; 
but it could not have been employed by 

Could Solomon have written this ? " More- 
over I saw under the sun in the place of 
judgment, that wickedness was there ; and 
in the place of righteousness that wicked- 
ness was there. Then I returned, and saw 
all the oppressions that are done under the 
sun ; and behold the tears of such as were 
oppressed, and they have no comforter ; and 
on the side of their oppressors there was 
power, but there was no comforter." Could 
a powerful monarch have spoken in this bit- 
ter and complaining way of the injustice 
and oppression which were going on in his 
own realm, which he had ample power to 
prevent, and which it was his duty to detect 
and punish? 

The whole picture of society in this book 
indicates a period very different from that 
of the golden days of Solomon. " The po- 
litical situation described in the book," says 
Plumptre, " the hierarchy of officials, the 
tyranny, extortion, and corruption of pro- 


vinces, the supreme authority of the great 
king, practically issuing in the despotism of 
a queen, a minister, or a slave, the revelry 
and luxury of the court, all are painted with 
a vividness which implies experience of mis- 
government such as that which meets us 
in Nehemiah and Esther," ^ in the days 
of the Persian domination, or in the still 
later days of the Greek tyranny. " The au- 
thor of Koheleth," says Driver, "evinces 
no kingly or national feeling ; he lives in a 
period of political servitude, destitute of pa- 
triotism or enthusiasm. When he alludes 
to kings he views them from below, as one 
of the people suffering from their misrule. 
His pages reflect the depression produced 
by the corruption of an Oriental despotism, 
with its injustice, its capriciousness, its revo- 
lutions, its system of spies, its hopelessness 
of reform. He must have lived when the 
Jews had lost their national independence 
and formed but a province of the Persian 
Empire ; perhaps even later, when they had 
passed under the rule of the Greeks. But 
he adopts a literary disguise, and puts his 
meditations into the mouth of the king 
whose reputation it was to have been the 

^ Ecclesiastes, p. 30. 


great sage and philosopher of the Hebrew- 
race." 1 

These are probabilities drawn from the 
book itself, which tend to establish its late 
origin. But there is something more than 
probability. The Hebrew scholars tell us 
that the book could not have been written 
in the days of Solomon ; that the forms of 
the language forbid the supposition. Words, 
idioms, constructions are used which did not 
exist in the time of Solomon. Those who 
know something about the growth of their 
own language know that it has passed 
through many stages of development, and 
that there are great differences between the 
early and the modern English. Not to go 
back to Chaucer and Mandeville, it is not 
difficult for those who are not great scholars 
to distinguish the English of Thomas More 
and Melville and Ascham and Spenser and 
Sidney from that of Coleridge and Macaulay 
and Arthur Helps and Matthew Arnold. 
One of these later writers might imitate an 
earlier one ; but one of the earlier ones 
could by no means have written in the style 
of one of the later ones, because many of 
the words used by these later ones did not 

^ Introduction, p. 441. 


exist in the times of the earlier ones, and 
the forms of many of the words used by 
both writers have greatly changed, and syn- 
tatic constructions and locutions have come 
into vogue in later times which the earlier 
writers never heard. If, therefore, Ruskin's 
" Crown of Wild Olive," or Arnold's " On 
Translating Homer," had been published 
first in England with the name of Francis 
Bacon or Walter Raleigh appended, and with 
the announcement that it was a posthumous 
work of the old writer, never before printed, 
any fairly bright High School pupil could 
have told you, in five minutes, that the 
work was pseudepigraphic, that the name 
had been feigned ; because no man in the 
sixteenth century could have written that 
kind of English. Now it is by evidence of 
precisely this nature that the Hebrew 
scholars assure us that the book of Ecclesi- 
astes could not have been written during the 
century when Solomon lived. Evidence of 
this kind is as decisive as any kind of evi- 
dence can be. Scholars who are familiar 
with the development of linguistic forms, 
when they come upon language like that of 
the Hebrew of Ecclesiastes, are just as sure 
that it did not originate in the days of King 


Solomon as you are when you see a Pull- 
man train standing at the station, that it 
was not built in the seventeenth century. 
It is by such facts that men as reverent and 
devout and conservative as any on the earth 
have been brought to the conclusion that 
Ecclesiastes must have been written cer- 
tainly as late as 330 b. c, perhaps as late 
as the beginning of the second century be- 
fore Christ. Luther came to this conclusion 
long ago ; and modern scholars as orthodox 
as Hengstenberg, Keil, and Delitzsch are 
perfectly certain about it. " Solomon did 
not write the book himself," says Luther, 
" but it was composed by Sirach in the 
time of the Maccabees." Professor De- 
litzsch, who is the most conservative of all the 
great German scholars, says : "If the Book 
of Koheleth be of old Solomonic origin, then 
there is no history of the Hebrew language." 
And Dr. Ginsburg, a great Hebrew authority, 
asserts that " we could as easily believe that 
Chaucer is the author of Rasselas, as that 
Solomon wrote Koheleth." 

All these results, you will observe, are 
derived from a careful study of the book it- 
self. Instead of accepting the tradition of 
the Jews, and the guesses and preconceived 

140 sevi:n puzzling bible books 

theories of the early Fathers, the higher 
criticism goes directly to the book itself 
and asks it to reveal its own secrets. The 
expert witness holds up to the light the 
paper on which the will is written, and dis- 
covers a kind of veining in the paper which 
was made by a machine that was not invented 
until after the date of the will. He does 
not guess, he knows, that that date is wrong. 
The document itself has told him so. Now 
there are water-marks in language, as well 
as in paper, and the trained philologist 
speaks of what he knows. 

As to the date at which the book was 
written there is, then, very little doubt that 
it must have been nearly seven centuries 
after the death of Solomon, certainly no 
earlier and probably later than the time of 
the prophet Malachi. 

What, now, is the teaching of the book ? 
That is perhaps the most perplexing question 
of Biblical interpretation. There is no book 
which has given the interpreters more trou- 
ble. Its structure appears to be composite 
and fragmentary ; Luther's saying, " It is, 
as it were, a Talmud put together out of 
many books," is a venture in the right di- 
rection. Several disconnected essays, inter- 


spersed with proverbs, are thrown together ; 
perhaps it is only the first of these, occupy- 
ing the first chapter and part of the second, 
that the author wishes to put into the mouth 
of Solomon. It is easier to interpret the 
other parts of the book, if we disconnect 
them from that character. 

When one tries to understand the teach- 
ing of the book as a whole, he is confounded 
by the confusion of the commentators. Dr. 
Ginsburg, in the "Encyclopedia Britan- 
nica," gives us a few of the interpretations : 
" We are positively assured that the book 
contains the holy lamentations of Solomon, 
together with a prophetic vision of the split- 
ting up of the royal house of David, the 
destruction of the temple, and the captivity ; 
and we are equally assured that it is a dis- 
cussion between a refined sensualist and a 
sober sage. Solomon publishes in it his re- 
pentance, to glorify God and strengthen his 
brethren ; he wrote it ' when he was irreli- 
gious and skeptical, during his amours and 
idolatry.' ' The Messiah, the true Solomon, 
who was known by the title of Son of David, 
addresses this book to the saints ; ' a profli- 
gate, who wanted to disseminate his infa- 
mous sentiments, palmed it upon Solomon. 


It teaches us to despise the world with all 
its pleasures, and flee to monasteries ; it 
shows that sensual gratifications are man's 
greatest blessings upon earth. It is a philo- 
sophic lecture addressed to a literary society 
upon subjects of the greatest moment ; it is 
a medley of heterogeneous fragments belong- 
ing to various authors and different ages. 
It describes the beautiful order of God's 
moral government, showing that all things 
work together for good to them that love the 
Lord ; it proves that all is disorder and con- 
fusion, and that the world is the sport of 
chance. It is a treatise on the summum 
honum ; it is a chronicle of the lives of the 
kings of the house of David, from Solomon 
down to Hezekiah. Its object is to prove 
the immortality of the soul ; its design is to 
deny a future existence. Its aim is to com- 
fort the unhappy Jews in their misfortunes ; 
and its sole purport is to pour forth the 
gloomy imaginations of a melancholy misan- 
thrope. It is intended to open Nathan's 
speech touching the eternal throne of David, 
and it propounds by anticipation the modern 
discoveries of anatomy and the Harveian 
theory of the circulation of the blood. ' It 
foretells what will become of man or angels 


to eternity, and according to one of tlie 
latest and greatest authorities, it is a keen 
satire on Herod, written 8 b. C, when the 
king cast his son Alexander into prison.' " 

Such an assortment of explanations may 
indicate that it is not an easy book to under- 
stand. Those who propose to take the 
whole Bible just as it reads will be obliged 
to put their intellects through a good many 
contortions before they get through with 
this book. The Jewish rabbis in the Synod 
of Jamnia who wished to reject it from the 
Canon on the ground that it contradicted 
itself had some reason for their criticism. 
The book is not self-consistent. The author 
was living in a very dark day. His nation's 
hope was almost extinguished ; the foreigner 
had devastated its fields and sacked its cities 
and carried its people into exile ; the long- 
cherished expectations of Messianic glory 
were hopes deferred that made the heart 
sick. There is so much of failure and dis- 
appointment and misery round about him 
that he is driven to take a very gloomy view 
of life. He doubts if the great kings, even, 
find any profit in all their splendor ; the 
objects for which men are striving appear to 
him nothing but emptiness. 


"Vanity of vanities, saith tlie preaclier, 
all is vanity. What profit hath man of all 
his labor wherein he laboreth under the sun ? 
One generation goeth and another genera- 
tion Cometh, and the earth abideth forever. 
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth 
down, and hasteth to his place where he 
ariseth. The wind goeth toward the south, 
and turneth about unto the north ; it turn- 
eth about continually in its course, and the 
wind returneth again to its circuits. All 
the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is 
not full ; unto the place where the rivers go, 
thither they go again. All things are full 
of weariness ; man cannot utter it ; the eye 
is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled 
with hearing. That which hath been is that 
which shall be, and that which hath been 
done is that which shall be done ; and there 
is no new thing under the sun." Life is a 
weary round, a treadmill, — roads that lead 
nowhither, aims that mock our endeavor, 
fruits that turn to ashes on our lips. Vanity 
of vanities, all is vanity. 

Then he brings in Solomon, and makes 
him tell of his great acquisitions and ac- 
cumulations and triumphs, and how little 
they are worth after all. It is all vanity. 


Men strive after wisdom, but what is the 
use of wisdom ? the gains thereof are real 
gains, no doubt, but they are brief : the wise 
man dies as the fool dies. 

Nor is the pursuit of pleasure any more 
satisfactory. " All the labor of man is for 
his mouth, and yet his appetite is not filled." 
We toil to gather riches, but who knows 
who will inherit them ? 

He turns to religion and its institutions, 
but they seem to him full of insincerity and 
emptiness ; much of this worship is the 
sacrifice of fools ; there are too many words 
and there is too little meaning. 

He turns to politics, and the corruption 
and oppression of the rulers and the syco- 
phancy of courtiers fill him with disgust. 
In the midst of all these illusions he betakes 
himself to bitter cynicism : — 

" In my fleeting- days I have seen 
Both the righteous die in his rig-hteousness 
And the wicked live long in his wickedness ; 
Be not too righteous therefore, 
Nor make thyself too wise lest thou be abandoned. 
Be not very wicked, nor yet very foolish, 
Lest thou die before thy time : 
It is better that thou shouldest lay hold of this, 
And also not lay hold of that ; 
For whoso feareth God will take hold on both. 
Their wisdom alone is greater strength to the wise 


Than an army to a beleaguered city ; 
For there is not a righteous man on earth 
Who doeth good and sinneth not." ^ 

The very cautious and conservative com- 
mentator whose translation I have quoted 
thus paraphrases this passage : — 

" He has seen both the righteous die in 
his righteousness without receiving any re- 
ward from it, and the wicked live long in 
his wickedness to enjoy his ill-gotten gains. 
And from these two mysterious facts, which 
much exercised many of the Prophets and 
Psalmists of Israel, he infers that a prudent 
man will neither be very righteous, since he 
will gain nothing by it and may lose the 
friendship of those who are content with 
the current morality ; nor very wicked, 
since, though he may lose little by this as 
long as he lives, he will very surely hasten 
his death. It is the part of prudence to lay 
hold on both ; to permit a temperate indul- 
gence both in virtue and vice, carrying nei- 
ther to excess, — a doctrine still very dear to 
the mere man of the world. In this tem- 
perance there lies a greater strength than 
that of an army in a beleaguered city ; for 
no righteous man is wholly righteous (vs. 
1 Chap. vii. 15-20, Cox's Translation. 


19-20) ; to aim at so lofty an ideal will be 
to attempt ' to wind ourselves too high for 
mortal man below the sky ; ' we shall only 
fail if we make the attempt; we shall be 
grievously disappointed if we expect other 
men to succeed where we have failed; we 
shall lose faith in them and in ourselves ; 
we shall suffer many pangs of shame, re- 
morse, and defeated hope ; and, therefore, 
it is well at once to make up our mind that 
we are and need be no better than our 
neighbors; that we are not to blame our- 
selves for customary and occasional slips; 
that, if we are but moderate, we may lay 
one hand on righteousness and another on 
wickedness without taking much harm. A 
most immoral moral, though it is as popular 
to-day as ever it was." ^ 

In this vein of cynicism, Koheleth turns 
his glass toward womankind, with this re- 
sult ; — 

" Then I and my heart turned to know this wisdom 
And dilig-ently examine it, 
To discover the cause of wickedness, vice, 
And that folly which is madness ; 
And I found woman more bitter than death ; 
She is a net ; 
Her heart is a snare and her hands are chains ; 

1 Op. cit., p. 200. 


Whoso is good before God shall escape her, 

But the sinner shall be taken by her. 

Behold what I have found, saith the Preacher, — 

Taking things one by one to reach the result — 

I have found one man among a thousand, 

But in all that number a woman I have not found." ^ 

Any man who can say all this of his mo- 
ther, his sister, his wife, his daughter, is in 
a mood from which we may all pray to be 

" All is vanity and a striving after wind ! " 
This is the unending refrain. And what 
makes life seem so unreal and phantasmal 
is the feeling that death ends it all : — 

" Yet I said to my heart of the children of men 
God hath sifted them. 

To show that they, even they, are but as beasts. 
For a mere chance is man, and the beast a mere chance, 
And they are both subject to the same chance ; 
As is the death of the one so is the death of the other ; 
And both have the same spirit ; 
And the man hath no advantage over the beast, 
For- both are vanity ; 
Both go to the same places ; 
Both sprang from dust and both turn into dust ; 
And who knoweth whether the spirit of man goeth up- 
Or the spirit of the beast goeth downward? 
Wherefore I saw that there is nothing better for man 
Than to rejoice in his labors. 
For this is his portion." 

1 Op. cit., chap. vi. 25-28. 


" Thus," says Samuel Cox, whose transla- 
tion of this passage I have quoted, "after 
rising in the first fifteen verses of this third 
chapter to an almost Christian height of 
patience and resignation and holy trust in 
the providence of God, Koheleth is smitten 
by the injustice and oppression of man into 
the depths of a pessimistic materialism." ^ 

It was this ghastly and chilling skepticism 
that robbed life of its significance. Koheleth 
had lost the strong hope of his countrymen 
in the triumph of good upon the earth. 
That had always been their confidence. Life 
beyond the grave was not the common expec- 
tation of Old Testament saints and prophets. 
The immortality which they looked for was a 
corporate immortality, — the continuance of 
their nation and their life in that. But Ko- 
heleth had come to despair of the Messianic 
kingdom, and he had not yet gained a sure 
hold of the hope of personal immortality 
which bis people brought back from Persia. 
Perhaps he hated the Persians too fiercely 
to be willing to believe a doctrine which they 
were teaching. 

Thus he stands on that desolate theologi- 
cal watershed which divides the old hope 
^ Ecclesiastes, p. 148. 


from the new ; the one he has lost, and the 
other he has not found. His dark mood 
reflects this uncertain grasp of the future. 

" No doubt," says Dr. Driver, " he would 
have judged human nature less despairingly 
had he possessed a clear consciousness of a 
future life. But the revelation of a future 
life was only accomplished gradually ; and 
though there are passages in the prophets 
which contain this truth in germ, and though 
the intuition of it is expressed at certain 
sublime moments by some of the Psalmists, 
yet these passages altogether are few in 
number, and the doctrine formed no part of 
the established creed of an ancient Israelite. 
Koheleth shares only the ordinary old He- 
brew view of a shadowy half -conscious exist- 
ence in Sheol ; he does not believe in a life 
hereafter in the sense in which the apostles 
of Christ believed it." ^ 

You think, doubtless, of those passages in 
which he speaks of retribution. "Know 
thou that for all these things God will bring 
thee to judgment;" " God shall bring every 
work into judgment with every hidden thing, 
whether it be good or evil." But we must 
beware of reading our New Testament ideas 

1 Introduction, p. 443. 


into all this phraseology. The judgment 
of which he is thinking is probably the pro- 
vidential retribution of this life, not of the 

That passage in which he speaks of the 
dust returning to the earth, and the spirit 
to the God who gave it, seems to us to inti- 
mate his expectation of future existence. It 
does not agree with what he has said in an 
earlier chapter : " Who knoweth the spirit 
of man whether it goeth upward, and the 
spirit of the beast whether it goeth down- 
ward to the earth?" Is this a later and 
more hopeful mood? Do we here discern 
the triumph of faith over skepticism ? The 
question is not without difficulty, but I in- 
cline to this opinion. The prevailing mood 
of the writer is one of doubt and despair, 
but there are gleams of faith and hope. 
It is not quite fair to call him a pessimist, 
for his faith in God does not forsake him. 
More than once, in these dismal moods, 
there comes into his soul a flash of aeonian 
light. Sometimes he is inclined to take the 
epicurean view of life, " Let us eat and drink, 
for to-morrow we die ; " but the sobering 
thought overtakes him that even these joys 
of the sense are the gifts of God and cannot 


profit us without his blessing. " Every 
man also to whom God hath given riches 
and wealth and hath given him power to eat 
thereof, and to take his portion and to re- 
joice in his labor, — this is the gift of God." 
" Though a sinner do evil a hundred times, 
and prolong his days, yet surely I know that 
it shall be well with them that fear God." 
These are the voices of faith which are heard 
from time to time, above the monotonous 
outcries of doubt, and the cynical counsels 
of hedonism. 

On the whole, then, I think we may re- 
gard this book as the picture of the struggle 
of a soul, in one of the darkest periods of 
the world's history, with its own doubts and 
fears. The prevailing tendency of most of 
these moralizings is skeptical and hopeless ; 
the writer feels that life is all a miserable 
tangle, yet he holds fast to his belief that 
" God 's in his heaven," and it brings him 
round to a hope, if not a confidence, that 
somehow, some time, it must be "all right 
with the world." No man who believes in 
a living God can be altogether a pessimist. 
And I do not see how he can continue to 
doubt the continuance of life after death. 
This, as I believe, is the more sure word of 


promise to which this writer comes at the 
end. Let us hear the solemn words with 
which he closes : — 

" Remember tliy Creator in the days of thy youth, 

Before the evil days come, 

And the years approach of which thon shalt say 

I have no pleasure in them ; 

Before the sun groweth dark. 

And the light and the moon and the stars, 

And the clouds return after the rain : 

When the keepers of the house shall quake, 

And the grinding-maids shall stop because so few are 

And the women who look out of the lattices shall be 

shrouded in darkness. 
And the sound of the mills shall cease. 
And the swallow fly shiieking to and fro. 
And all the song-birds drop silently into their nests. 
There shall be terror at that which cometh from the 

And fear shall beset the highway ; 
The almond also shall be rejected 
And the locust be loathed 
And the caper-berry provoke no appetite ; 
Because man goeth to his long home. 
And the mourners pace up and down the street ; 
Before the silver cord snappeth asunder 
And the golden bowl escapeth ; 
Before the pitcher be shattered at the fountain 
And the wheel is broken at the well ; 
And the body is cast into the earth from which it came, 
And the spirit returneth to God who gave it." ^ 

1 Ecdesiastes, Cox's Translation, p. 107. 



" The Song of Songs, wMcli is Solo- 
mon's," is tlie title of that book of tlie Bible 
which ranks next to Ecclesiastes in difficulty 
of interpretation. Indeed, there are many 
who would readily yield to this book the palm 
on the score of obscurity. The first sentence 
of Mr. Adeney's recent admirable commen- 
tary, in the Expositor's Bible Series, is this : 
"The Song of Solomon is a puzzle to the 
commentator." The category in which we 
have put it thus appears to be justified. It 
is a poem which gives expression in strains 
of great intensity and beauty to the passion 
of love, — the love of man and woman, which 
has always been the central theme of novel 
and lyric and drama. On the face of it 
there is no indication of any religious pur- 
pose ; there is not a word about worship or 
prayer, or any relation between man and 
God ; the name of the Most High is only 
mentioned in one phrase which describes 


jealousy as " a very flame of the Lord," — 
and that, perhaps, is no more than a famil- 
iar Hebrew figure of speech, — a metaphor 
for something very hot. For all that ap- 
pears to the casual reader, or even to the 
careful student, this is simply a song or 
songs of human love. If it were not in the 
Bible, no other interpretation of it would 
even have been dreamed of. 

The question about the literary form of 
the book has been much discussed. " There 
are indications," says Mr. Adeney, " that it 
is a continuous poem ; and yet it is char- 
acterized by startling kaleidoscopic changes 
that seem to break it up into fragments. 
If it is a single work, the various sections of 
it succeed one another in the most abrupt 
manner, without any connecting links or ex- 
planatory clauses. The simplest way out of 
the difficulty presented by the many curious 
terms and changes of the poem is to deny it 
any structural unity, and treat it as a string 
of independent lyrics. That is to cut the 
knot in a rather disappointing fashion." ^ 
For my own part, I find it difficult to accept 
in their entirety any of the critical explana- 
tions of the form of the poem which have 

1 Commentary , p. 3. 


yet been offered. It possesses a certain 
continuity ; the heroine, the beautiful Shu- 
lamite, appears in every scene, and her 
character is consistent throughout ; but when 
we attempt to break up the poem into parts, 
and assign to each its appropriate character, 
the difficulties are very great. 

StiU, the overwhelming majority of the 
scholars agree that we have in the book a 
dialogue, carried on by two or more speakers. 
The fact that no names are given, and that 
the changes of person are not marked, is no 
evidence that the form is not dramatic. In 
many of Mr. Browning's dramatic lyrics, 
the persons speaking suddenly change ; the 
only indication of the change is quotation 
marks, and of that device the Hebrew writer 
could not avail himself. In some of the 
Psalms we have two or more speakers, with 
no indication but the sense of the language 
of a change from one to another. In this 
poem it is evident that we have several 
speakers. The transition from the mascu- 
line to the feminine gender, and from the 
singular to the plural number, make this 
plain. What we seem to have, therefore, 
is a kind of operetta, in which the principal 
characters, two or three in number, sing to 


each other songs of love, very fervid and 
beautiful ; and in which certain other char- 
acters or groups of characters, choruses, 
perhaps, now and then join. The persons 
named in it are the Shulamite, a rustic 
maiden apparently from the North Country, 
and King Solomon. To some of the inter- 
preters it appears that another character, 
who plays an important part, is introduced. 
The main question among modern scholars 
is whether the dramatis personm include 
this third character, or whether the parts by 
some critics assigned to him are spoken by 
King Solomon. 

The theory of the book for which Profes- 
sor Delitzsch is chiefly responsible finds in 
the poem but two principal characters, King 
Solomon and the Shulamite maiden. The 
king has found her and is about to raise her 
to the throne ; the book begins with her 
introduction to the palace at Jerusalem, 
and consists of a description of the wedding 
festivities, with exchanges of passionate 
protestation between the royal lover and the 
rustic maiden, and now and then a response 
by the ladies of the court and other charac- 
ters acting as chorus. 

According to the other modern theory, 


suggested first by Jacobi, and developed by 
Ewald, " there are," in the words of Dr. 
Driver, "three principal characters, Solo- 
mon, the Shulamite maiden, and her shep- 
herd lover. A beautiful Shulamite maiden, 
surprised by the king and his train on a 
royal progress in the north, has been brought 
to the palace in Jerusalem, where the king 
hopes to win her affections, and to induce her 
to exchange her rustic home for the honor 
and enjoyments which a court life could 
afford. She has, however, already pledged 
her heart to a young shepherd ; and the ad- 
miration and blandishments which the king 
lavishes upon her are powerless to make her 
forget him. In the end she is permitted to 
return to her mountain home, where, at the 
close of the poem, the lovers appear hand in 
hand, and express in warm and glowing 
words the superiority of genuine, spontane- 
ous affection over that which may be pur- 
chased by wealth or rank." 

Such are the two modern theories of the 
structure of this poem. Before we compare 
them, it will be well to consider some of 
the older interpretations. The last chapter 
contains a succinct resume of various ex- 
planations of Ecclesiastes ; the tale of the 


interpretations of the Song of Solomon is 
even longer. The Jewish commentators pro- 
duced a great variety of explanations, more 
or less mystical and allegorical, finding in 
the poem all sorts of occult meanings ; and 
Christian exegetes, following hard after 
them, have greatly extended the list. In 
" Who Wrote the Bible ? " Dean Farrar's 
summary of these interpretations is quoted, 
and it may be well to repeat it here as an 
instance of the way in which the book has 
been handled : — 

" It represents, say the commentators, the 
love of the Lord for the congregation of 
Israel ; it relates the history of the Jews 
from the exodus to the Messiah ; it is a con- 
solation to afflicted Israel; it is an occult 
history ; it represents the union of the di- 
vine soul with the earthly body ; or of the 
material with the active intellect ; it is the 
conversation of Solomon and Wisdom ; it 
describes the love of Christ to his Church ; 
it is historico-prophetical ; it is Solomon's 
thanksgiving for a happy reign ; it is a love- 
song unworthy any place in the sacred canon ; 
it treats of man's reconciliation to God ; it 
is a prophecy of the Church from the cruci- 
fixion until after the Eeformation ; it is an 


anticipation of the Apocalypse ; it is the 
seven days' epithalamium on the marriage of 
Solomon with the daughter of Pharaoh ; it 
is a magazine for direction and consolation 
under every condition; it treats in hiero- 
glyphics of the sepulchre of the Saviour, 
his death, and the Old Testament saints ; 
it refers to Hezekiah and the ten tribes ; it 
is written in glorification of the Virgin 
Mary." ^ Such is the fruit of the allegoriz- 
ing tendency. When the human imagina- 
tion is let loose upon a piece of literature 
like this with the idea of finding some occult 
meaning in it, it is capable of yielding some 
very fantastic results. 

This tendency to allegorize was developed 
among the Jews in the centuries just before 
Christ, and was taken up by some of the 
Christian fathers who followed the apostles. 
Some of these early teachers, both Jewish 
and Christian, were able to find the most 
subtle and mysterious meanings in the most 
commonplace statements of the Bible. Thus 
Philo tells us that in the text, " With my 
staff I passed over the Jordan," Jordan 
means baseness, and the staff means disci- 
pline ; so that Jacob must be interpreted as 

1 History of Interpretation, p. 32. 


saying, " By discipline I triumph over base- 
ness." By " the green herb of the field," 
in the first chapter of Genesis, we must un- 
derstand that portion of the mind which is 
perceptible only by intellect. The verse 
" God did not rain upon the earth " signi- 
fies that God did not grant perception to 
the senses. In the farewell address of Moses, 
where he speaks of the plenty of the promised 
land which the people are to enjoy, — great 
and goodly cities, houses full of all good 
things, cisterns hewn out, and vineyards and 
olive-trees, — we are told that cities mean 
" general virtues," and houses " special vir- 
tues," and wells ''noble dispositions toward 
wisdom," and vineyards and olive-trees 
" cheerfulness and light." So in later days 
Origen explains that the six water-pots of 
stone in the miracle at Cana signify that the 
world was made in six days ; and that the 
two or three firkins apiece which they held 
indicate the moral and literal and sometimes 
spiritual sense of the words of Scripture; 
also, that in the incident of Palm Sunday, 
the ass represents the Old Testament, the 
ass's colt the New Testament, and the two 
disciples sent to untie them are the moral 
and the mystic senses ; while Methodius 


wishes us to believe that the calf, the goat, 
and the ram of three years offered by Abra- 
ham in sacrifice were his soul, his sentient 
faculty, and his mind. 

We need not greatly wonder that teachers 
like these — and the church was full of 
them — were able to turn the Song of Songs 
into endless allegories. With the growth 
of learning, much of this fantastic inter- 
pretation dropped away; but one or two 
leading conceptions persisted and still per- 
sist, and the book in most quarters is even 
now supposed to be an allegory. In the 
allegorical interpretations the chief charac- 
ters are commonly supposed to be two ; one 
of these interpretations makes the book 
symbolical of the relation of God to the 
believing soul ; another, and the most com- 
mon one, makes it symbolize the love of 
Christ for his Church. King Solomon, in 
the drama, is supposed to represent Christ, 
and the Shulamite maiden the Church ; the 
rapturous songs of love express, as in a fig- 
ure, the spiritual and divine affection be- 
tween the Church and her Lord. 

Some color is given to this interpretation 
by those passages in the Revelation which 
speak of the Church as the Bride, the Lamb's 


wife, and also by certain words in Paul's 
epistles, in which he adopts the same sym- 
bolism. And it must be admitted that many 
devout men in all ages have read this mean- 
ing into the words of this old song, and have 
found consolation and help in the thought 
that the relation of the Lord to his people 
could be expressed in its tender words. 

Still, the allegorical interpretation is one 
that nearly all devout scholars of the pre- 
sent day have abandoned. The reasons for 
rejecting it are obvious enough. 

In the first place, there is not a sign or a 
hint anywhere in the poem that the writer 
intended us to take it in a mystical sense. 
An allegory must disclose its purpose. It 
need not tell us in plain words that it is so 
intended ; something a little less frank than 
the devices of Snug the Joiner and Snout 
the Tinker and Flute the Bellows-mender 
will serve ; but the hidden meaning must 
be always shining through the symbol ; the 
structure of the allegory must clearly reveal 
what it coyly conceals. " These allegories," 
says Robertson Smith, " are never without 
internal marks of their allegorical design. 
The language of symbol is not so perfect 
that a long chain of splendid ideas can be 


developed witliout the use of a single spirit- 
ual word or phrase ; and even were this pos- 
sible, it would be false art in the allegorist 
to hide away his sacred thoughts behind a 
screen of sensuous and erotic imagery so 
complete and beautiful in itself as to give 
no suggestion that it is only the vehicle of a 
deeper sense. Apart from tradition, no one, 
in the present state of exegesis, would dream 
of allegorizing poetry which in its natural 
sense is so full of purpose and meaning, so 
apt in sentiment, and so perfect in imagery 
as the lyrics of Canticles. We are not at 
liberty to seek for allegory, except when the 
natural sense is incomplete. This is not the 
case in the Song of Solomon. On the con- 
trary, every form of the allegorical inter- 
pretation which has been devised carries its 
own condemnation in the fact that it takes 
away from the artistic unity of the poem 
and breaks natural sequences of thought." 

Take any allegory with which you are 
familiar, and you will see at once that the 
symbolism is transparent. There is no pos- 
sibility of mistaking the spiritual intent of 
the story, the general drift of the teaching. 
You are not long in doubt when you begin to 
read '' Pilgrim's Progress," as to what kind 


of literature you are reading, and what it 
means. You know that Bunyan is giving 
you in these flesh-and-blood forms a kind of 
mask, in which he wishes to disclose spirit- 
ual facts. But this poem gives no indica- 
tion of allegorical intention, and the list of 
interpretations which I have given to j^ou 
shows that if the writer was trying to convey 
any particular spiritual truth, he has met 
with very indifferent success. 

In the second place, if the book were an 
allegory representing the relations of Christ 
to his Church, it would seem that either 
Christ himself or some of the apostles would 
have been likely to refer to it. Paul made 
use of this very conception of the Church 
as the spouse of Christ ; but he does not 
allude to this book, nor is there any refer- 
ence to it in the New Testament. 

In the third place, an interpretation which 
makes the addition of one more inmate to 
the harem of that royal rake, King Solomon, 
the type of the spiritual affection between 
Christ and his Church is one of dubious 
moral quality. The character of this king, 
as it is set before us in the history, is not 
one that we can complacently accept as a 
type of the pure and undefiled Nazarene. 


"Now King Solomon loved many strange 
women," says the record, " besides the daugh- 
ter of Pharaoh ; . . . and he had seven hun- 
dred wives, princesses, and three hundred 
concubines ; and his wives turned away his 
heart." If we make allowance here for con- 
siderable Oriental arithmetic, the tradition 
still abides that this man was one of the 
coarsest and most wanton voluptuaries of 
history. The theory that he was reformed 
through his love for a rustic maiden, and 
that this poem recites the circumstances of 
his reformation, is one for which there is no 
historical foundation. " Solomon, the son of 
David, with all his wisdom, played the fool. 
The foremost man and Hebrew of his time, 
he gave his heart to ' strange women,' and to 
gods whose ritual was not only idolatrous, 
but cruel, dark, impure. In his pursuit of 
science, unless the whole East belie him, he 
ran into secret magical arts, incantations, 
divinations, an occult intercourse with the 
powers of ill. In all ways he departed from 
the God who had enriched him with the 
choicest gifts, and sank, through luxury, 
extravagance, and excess, first into a pre- 
mature old age, and then into a death so un- 
relieved by any sign of penitence or any 


promise of amendment that from tliat day 
to this rabbis and di^dnes have discussed his 
final doom, many of them leaning to the 
darker alternative. This 

* uxorious king', whose heart, though large, 
Beguiled by fair idolatresses, fell 
To idols foul,' 

is the Solomon of history." ^ 

The natural basis of the allegory, if Solo- 
mon and the Shulamite are the only charac- 
ters represented, is the addition of one more 
favorite to the seven hundred, more or less, 
of Solomon's harem. There are flattering 
promises that she shall be preferred above 
the rest, but this scarcely changes the char- 
acter of the man, nor of the transaction. 

We may admit that polygamy of this 
wholesale sort was not, to the people of the 
ninth century before Christ, so monstrous 
a thing as it is to us ; but if we have here 
a divinely inspired book, the inspiration 
which created it must have known that the 
day would come when such a character as 
that of Solomon would be egregiously unfit 
to typify the blessed Christ. No matter in 
what colors this song might paint him, his 
dark record stands upon the pages of the 
1 Ecclesiastes, by Samuel Cox, p. 18. 


Book of Kings ; and I decline to believe 
that tlie Spirit of truth and wisdom ever 
selected him to represent in allegory the 
blameless Nazarene, or that the transaction 
represented in this theory of the poem can 
fitly symbolize to us the relation between 
Christ and his Church. 

Another consideration has weight with 
me. That devout souls have read their 
own devotion to Christ into these fervid 
words, I have admitted. But it is also true 
that the use of this book as an allegory has 
often imparted to religious speech a sickly 
sentimentalism which is fatal to all genuine 
manly and womanly piety. The terms in 
which these lovers address each other are 
not terms in which believers can profitably 
hold fellowship with their Lord. The 
erotic religiousness which has found its 
excuse in the allegorical interpretation of 
this book has often been a very disgusting 
thing. Some of the hymns in which this 
kind of sentiment has found expression are 
offensive to all right feeling. 

The reasoning which condemns the alle- 
gorical interpretation also obliges us to set 
aside that other modern interpretation 
which makes this the celebration of a love 


affair between King Solomon and the Shu- 
lamite maiden. I should like to believe that 
this book has some ethical uses, and I doubt 
whether the marital or morganatic relations 
of King Solomon to any woman on the earth 
can be profitably considered in any kind of 
literature, no matter how exquisite may be 
the poetic drapery in which the corrup- 
tion is clad. It is true that the advocates 
of this theory try to show that the royal 
rake was purified by this experience ; but, 
as I have said, the history is silent about 
any such reformation ; and the foundation 
which the poem gives us for such a theory 
is very insecure. 

Accordingly I am constrained to adopt 
the theory of the book to which the great 
name of Ewald has been given, and which 
is adopted by Oettli, and Driver, and Eob- 
ertson Smith, and Adeney, and our own Dr. 
Griffis. This is what is known as " the 
shepherd hypothesis," by which the dia- 
logue is distributed among three principal 
characters, one of whom is the shepherd 
lover of the Shulamite maiden, from whom 
she has been torn and transported to the 
court of Solomon ; to whom, in spite of all 
the blandishments of the king and the 


temptations o£ the court, she remains faith- 
ful, and to whom she returns in the last 
scenes rejoicing in deliverance from gilded 
infamy, and exultant in the consummation of 
an unpurchasable and inextinguishable love. 
That there are difficulties in this interpre- 
tation I do not deny ; it is not easy to fit all 
the parts of the dialogue to this scheme ; 
nevertheless the dramatic and psychological 
improbabilities are perhaps no greater by 
this interpretation than by the other, and 
the moral anomalies are certainly much less. 
Understanding the book in this way, it does 
seem to yield us a noble and beautiful mean- 
ing. There will still be Orientalisms with 
which we must reckon ; the frankness of the 
speech of these lovers is not according to 
modern etiquette ; the book cannot all be 
read aloud profitably in any company ; and 
we can see some wisdom in the ancient Jew- 
ish regulation that it was not to be put into 
the hands of any one under thirty years of 
age ; still, with the signification which we 
are now considering, it is not an impure 
book ; the fervent passion to which it gives 
utterance is one of the strongest and highest 
principles in human nature ; and the lesson 
which it teaches ennobles human life. 


I cannot undertake the analysis of this 
poem ; if any of you care to study its struc- 
ture, to see how its dialogue is distributed 
among these characters, you may find in 
Dr. Griffis's little book "The Lily among 
Thorns " a popular arrangement of its parts. 

Nor would it be possible, as I have inti- 
mated, to quote from it at length. Although, 
in the words of Mr. Adeney, " a poem that 
contains these principles must be allowed to 
have an important mission in the world, it 
does not follow that it is suitable for public 
or indiscriminate reading. The fact that the 
key to it is not easily discovered is a warn- 
ing that it is liable to be misunderstood. 
When it is read superficially, without any 
comprehension of its drift and motive, it 
may be perverted to mischievous ends. The 
antique Oriental pictures with which it 
abounds, though natural to the circumstances 
of its origin, are not in harmony with the 
more reserved manners of our own condi- 
tions of society. As all the books of the 
Bible are not of the same character, so they 
are not all to be used in the same way." ^ 

As poetry the book takes a very high 
rank. "The movement," says Dr. Driver, 
1 Commentary, p. 59. 


" is graceful and light ; the imagery is beau- 
tiful and singularly picturesque ; the author 
revels among the delights of the country ; 
one scene after another is brought before 
us, — doves hiding in the clefts of the rocks, 
or resting beside the water-brooks ; gazelles 
leaping over the mountains or feeding among 
the lilies ; goats reclining on the sloping 
sides of Gilead ; trees with their varied foli- 
age, flowers with bright hues or richly-scented 
perfume are ever supplying the poet with a 
fresh picture or comparison ; we seem to 
walk with the shepherd lover himself among 
vineyards and fig-trees in the balmy air of 
spring or to see the fragrant, choicely fur- 
nished garden which the charms of his be- 
trothed call up before his imagination." ^ 

This lovely song of the springtime, for 
example, has woven its music and its color 
through all the world's literature. It is 
supposed to be the maiden's reminiscence of 
her own betrothal to the shepherd : — 

" The voice of my beloved ! behold he cometh, 
Leaping- upon the mountains, skipping- upon the hills. 
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young- hart : 
Behold, he standeth behind our wall, 
He looketh in at the windows, 
He glanceth through the lattice. 

1 Introduction, p. 420. 


My "beloved spake and said unto me, 

Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. 

For lo, tlie winter is past, 

The rain is over and gone ; 

The flowers appear on the earth, 

The time of the singing of birds is come, 

And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land ; 

The fig tree ripeneth her green figs 

And the vines are in blossom ; 

They give forth their fragrance. 

Arise, ray love, my fair one, and come away ! " 

And these words also, with which the 
rural pair depart from the palace to their 
home in the North Country, and the maiden 
avows the purity and intensity of her invio- 
lable love, are memorable for their beauty : 

" I am my beloved's, 

And his desire is toward me. 

Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field, 

Let us lodge in the villages- 
Let us get up early into the vineyards ; 

Let us see whether the vine hath budded and its blos- 
som be open, 

And the pomegranates be in flower : 

There will I give thee my love. 

The love apples give forth fragrance, 

And over our doors are all manner of precious fruits, 
new and old. 

Which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved. 

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine 

For love is strong as death, 
Jealousy is cruel as Sheol : 


The flashes thereof are flashes of fire, 

A very flame of the Lord. 

Many waters cannot quench love, 

Neither can the floods drown it : 

If a man would give all the substance of his house for 

He would utterly be eontemned." 

From a girl who has flung a palace in the 
face of a king, these words are not without 

The poem has, then, for me, a deep signi- 
ficance ; it is the celebration and glorifica- 
tion of that pure passion of love which is 
the deepest thing in human life, and which 
ought to be regarded always as one of the 
most sacred things. It is neither an acci- 
dent, nor a morbid perversion of human 
thought which has given to this great theme 
a place so central in all literature ; it is love 
or the lack of it which makes or mars most 
human lives. " What is so old as love- 
making," asks Mr. Adeney, " and what so 
fresh ? At least ninety-nine novels out of 
a hundred have a love-story for plot ; and 
the hundredth is always regarded as an ec- 
centric experiment. The pedant may plant 
his heel on the perennial flower, but it will 
spring up again as vigorous as ever. This is 
the poetry of the most commonplace exist- 


ence. When it visits a dingy soul the desert 
blossoms as the rose. Life may be hard and 
its drudgery a grinding yoke ; but with love 
' all tasks are sweet.' ' And Jacob served 
seven years for Rachel and they seemed unto 
him but a few days, for the love he had to 
her.' That experience of the patriarch is 
typical of the magic power of true love in 
every age, in every clime. To the lover it 
is always ' the time of the singing of birds.' 
Who shall tell the value of the boon that 
God has given so freely to mankind, to 
sweeten the lot of the toiler and shed mu- 
sic into his heart ? But this boon requires 
to be jealously guarded and sheltered from 
abuse, or its honey will be turned into gall. 
It is for the toiler, — the shepherd whose 
locks are wet with the dew that has fallen 
upon him while guarding his flock by night, 
the maiden who has been working in the 
vineyard ; it is beyond the reach of the 
pleasure-seeking monarch and the indolent 
ladies of his court. This boon is for the 
pure in heart; it is utterly denied to the 
sensual and the dissolute. Finally, it is re~ 
served for the loyal and true as the peculiar 
reward of constancy." ^ 

1 Op. cit, p. 58. 


Is this the meaning of the poem ? If it 
is, then we need not look for allegorical in- 
terpretations or mystic symbolisms ; the 
simple stor}^ that the poem tells is full of 
highest and divinest signification. If the 
Bible has given us a book which teaches us 
this pure and ennobling lesson, there is a 
deep and true sense in which we may re- 
gard that book as having been given by in- 
spiration of God. 


The book of Daniel has played a large 
part in the history of the Christian church. 
Probably no other book in the Bible has 
been so much interpreted ; it has furnished 
the expounders of millennial theology with a 
large part of their material ; century after 
century its enigmatic numbers have been 
calculated and recalculated to make them fit 
the schemes of the prophets who distinctly 
saw the end of the world drawing nigh. I 
remember as well as if it were yesterday a 
blackboard hanging in the pulpit, on which 
some of these figures in Daniel were added 
and subtracted by the preacher, showing 
with the precision of mathematics that the 
world must come to an end in 1843. That 
was the date at which we were then living. 
And I remember well the chilling fear 
which fell upon the heart of a child at the 
sight of these ominous figures, a fear which 
was never lifted till the sun rose bright and 


clear on New Year's Day, 1844. That 
blessed morning banished many terrors, and 
loosened the grip of uncanny superstition. 
I have heard the ravens croak, ever since, 
with considerable equanimity. 

The apocalyptical numbers in this book of 
Daniel lend themselves to the mystic specu- 
lators about future events. There is one 
particular term of seventy weeks at the end 
of which something is to happen ; and it is 
explained that these are weeks of years, 
whatever that may mean. Seventy weeks 
are four hundred and ninety days ; and the 
commentators have generally supposed that 
each day in this reckoning was a year. But 
when this period begins nobody knows ; 
some say at the captivity, some at the de- 
struction of Jerusalem, some at the death 
of Christ ; and there is nothing in the world 
to hinder anybody from putting the termi- 
nus a quo at the time of the battle of Wa- 
terloo or the landing of the Pilgrims, and 
then looking out for something very, impor- 
tant to happen at the end of four hundred 
and ninety years from that time. The de- 
termination to find in these numbers some- 
thing of deep prophetic significance has 
racked the brains and unsettled the reason 


of great multitudes of Christians ; and all 
this speculation and calculation and prog- 
nostication lands us in the middle of No- 
where. " So far," says Farrar, " from find- 
ing any agreement in the opinions of the 
Christian Fathers and commentators on the 
subject, we only find ourselves weltering in 
a chaos of uncertainties and contradic- 
tions." ^ It would seem that such a result 
might have suggested, before this time, that 
the attempt to deal with these symbols as 
prophetic might as well be abandoned ; that 
some other explanation of their meaning- 
might as well be sought. 

The first six chapters of this book are 
written in the third person, and the remain- 
ing six chapters in the first person. The first 
part of the book is about Daniel ; the sec- 
ond part seems to be written by Daniel. 
The change from the third to the first person 
is explained by some commentators on the 
supposition that in the earlier chapters we 
have extracts from the diary of Daniel and 
that in 'the later chapters he describes his 
own visions. If we have here a historical 
work, Daniel was a Jew who lived at Babylon 
in the reign of Nebuchadrezzar (in this book 
1 The Book of Daniel, p. 96. 


erroneously called Nebuchadnezzar) ; and 
who became by far the most conspicuous 
personage under the king in the whole 
realm. In the words of Dean Farrar, " If 
we accept as historical the particulars nar- 
rated of him in this book, it is clear that 
few Jews have ever risen to so splendid an 
eminence. Under four powerful kings and 
conquerors, of three different nationalities 
and dynasties, he held a position of high 
authority among the haughtiest aristocracies 
of the ancient world. At a very early age 
he was not only a satrap but the prince and 
prime minister over all the satraps of Baby- 
lonia and Persia ; not only a magian but 
the head magian, and chief governor over 
all the wise men of Babylon. Not even 
Joseph as the chief ruler over all the house 
of Pharaoh had anything like the extensive 
sway exercised by the Daniel of this book. 
He was placed by Nebuchadrezzar ' over the 
whole province of Babylon ; ' under Darius 
he was president of the Board of Three, to 
whom all the satraps sent their accounts ; 
and he was continued in office and prosper- 
ity under Cyrus the Persian." ^ 

Such a mighty man as this should leave a 

1 Op. cit. p. 4. 


large mark upon all history, sacred and pro- 
fane. We have considerable history of these 
times, on ancient monuments and inscrip- 
tions ; we know much about the great mon- 
archs and their great deeds ; but of Daniel 
no hint is given in any of these historical 

In the Old Testament, outside of this 
book, the name of Daniel is mentioned by 
only one author, the prophet Ezekiel, who 
must have been his contemporary. Twice 
Ezekiel uses the name of Daniel. In one 
passage, where he is addressing the Prince 
of Tyre, he says : " Behold thou art wiser 
than Daniel; there is no secret that they 
can hide from thee." In another passage, 
threatening destruction against Jerusalem, 
the prophet declares that " though these 
three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, 
they should deliver but their own souls by 
their righteousness ; " " they shall deliver 
neither son nor daughter." These references 
to Daniel, in the Book of Ezekiel, are very 
perplexing. When Ezekiel wrote these 
words Daniel must have been a young man, 
perhaps not more than twenty-one or twenty- 
two years of age, certainly not much more 
than thirty ; and such a man to a Jew would 


seem a mere youth ; why Ezekiel should put 
him between two ancient patriarchs, like 
Noah and Job, we cannot understand. It 
would be as if a writer of to-day, wishing to 
mention three of our most renowned and 
most revered statesmen, should speak of 
George Washington, Theodore Koosevelt, 
and John Adams. It would seem a little in- 
congruous to put a contemporary, no matter 
how upright and honorable, into such a jux- 
taposition with two ancient worthies. The 
natural inference would be that the Daniel 
of whom Ezekiel spoke was some hero of 
the faith who had lived long before his 

If, however, as some explain, the amazing 
eminence of Daniel, as described in this 
book, entitled him to be ranked in this way 
with Noah and Job, then it becomes still 
more strange that we have no word of refer- 
ence to him in the other books of the Old 
Testament which deal with this period. The 
histories of Ezra and Nehemiah give us all 
the details of the return of the exiles from 
Babylon ; but of Daniel they do not seem to 
have heard. Daniel was living, according 
to the book, when the first captives returned 
to Jerusalem ; but he was not among them, 


and neither he nor any of the historians of 
that time explain why he did not go. " We 
might have assumed," says Farrar, " that 
patriotism so burning as his would not have 
preferred to stay at Babylon or at Shushan 
when the priests and princes of the people 
were returning to the Holy City. Others of 
great age faced the perils of the Eestora- 
tion ; and if he stayed behind to be of greater 
use to his countrymen we cannot account for 
the fact that he is not distantly alluded to 
in the record which tells how ' the chief of 
the fathers, with all those whose spirit God 
had raised, rose up to go to build the house 
of the Lord which is at Jerusalem.' " ^ 

Nor is it easy to understand why the three 
later prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Mal- 
achi, are wholly silent about Daniel. They 
do not seem to have heard of him ; and their 
expectations respecting the future of their 
own nation are very different from those 
which this book expresses. They are look- 
ing for the immediate and glorious rehabili- 
tation of the Hebrew nationality, while 
Daniel seems to look for centuries of bond- 
age and persecution. But how could these 
prophets of the post-exilic period have been 
1 Op. cit. p. 11. 


silent respecting such a hero and prince as 
Daniel is here represented to have been ? 

In some of the Apocryphal books we 
find a great deal of information about Daniel ; 
but these are known to be romantic tales 
with no historical value. 

Not only is there no mention of Daniel in 
the Old Testament (apart from those two 
references in Ezekiel which seem to refer to 
some person who lived long before the day 
of this Daniel), but there is no allusion to 
the book of Daniel nor to any of the events 
mentioned in it, nor to any of the visions 
described in it. 

What is still more striking, the place 
which this book occupies in the Hebrew 
Bible shows that it must have been ad- 
mitted to the Canon at a very late date. 
In our Bibles it stands among the propheti- 
cal books ; it is reckoned as one of the four 
greater prophets ; but in the Hebrew Bibles 
it is not among the prophets at all ; it is 
among the Ketubim or writings which were 
esteemed less valuable than the other two 
divisions, the law and the prophets, and it 
is almost at the end of the list ; it follows 
after Esther, and is only followed by Ezra, 
Nehemiah, and the Chronicles. This is a 


pretty strong indication of tke late origin of 
the book. If it had. been written by sucli a 
prince and prophet as Daniel is here repre- 
sented to be, as early as the sixth century 
before Christ, it would almost certainly 
have been placed by the Jews in the col- 
lection of the prophets. At least three 
books which were certainly written after 
this is supposed to have been written are in 
that collection ; while this book is almost at 
the end of the collection of less sacred writ- 
ings made up later and appended to the law 
and the prophets. 

One of the Apocryphal books, written 
by Jesus the Son of Sirach about 200 
B. c, has a list of the Hebrew worthies ; 
among them he names Isaiah, Jeremiah, 
Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets, but 
he does not speak of Daniel. This is a 
strong indication, not, of course, a proof, 
that the book was not in existence at the 
beginning of the second century before 

Some of the statements of the book are 
in keeping with what we know of the his- 
tory of the times, but others appear to con- 
flict with our knowledge, and it is difficult 
to understand how they could have been 


written by one who was living in Babylon 
at tbat date. 

In the first verse we read that Nebu- 
chadrezzar besieged Jerusalem, and carried 
away some of the vessels of the temple in 
the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, 
king of Judah. It was at this time, ac- 
cording to the story, that Daniel was taken 
captive. But in the twenty-fifth chapter 
of Jeremiah we are told that in the fourth 
year of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah warned the 
people of Jerusalem that Jehovah was 
about to send against them Nebuchad- 
rezzar the king of Babylon. The terms 
which Jeremiah uses makes it evident that 
Nebuchadrezzar had not before appeared 
before the gates of Jerusalem. The error 
is not serious ; it only indicates a lack of 
familiarity with the facts which a writer 
living at the time would not have exhibited. 
In the second chapter of Daniel the dream 
of Nebuchadrezzar which Daniel interpreted 
is fixed in the second year of his reign ; 
but in the first chapter we are told that 
Daniel and his three companions had been 
by command of the king for three years 
under the lore of Ashpenaz the master of the 
eunuchs, before anything was known of his 
power of interpretation. 


The name Belteshazzar was given by tlie 
king to Daniel; and tlie king himself ex- 
plains that the name was derived from the 
name of his God, — Bel, no doubt. Evi- 
dently this is what the writer of the 
book supposed the name Belteshazzar to 
mean. But this is a mistake on his part. 
Belteshazzar has nothing to do with Bel. 
The Chaldean word is Balatsii-utsur, which 
means " protect his life." The mistake of 
the writer is something like that of one not 
familiar with modern European names who 
should suppose that " Bonaparte " was ety- 
mologically derived from "bone," or "Cath- 
erine " from " cat." 

Most striking of all these errors is the 
use of the word " Chaldeans " to describe 
astrologers or magicians. That word was 
used in this way in later days ; just as the 
word "Egyptian" is now used in Scotland to 
describe a gypsy ; but the word " Chaldean" 
never meant any such thing in the days of 
Nebuchadrezzar : on all the monuments it 
signifies simply the Chaldean people, and 
never the magians. The word " Egyptian " 
could never have been used to describe a 
gypsy in the first Christian centuries ; if 
you found a writing, purporting to have 


been written in the first century of our era, 
in which the word " Egyptian" was used in 
that way, you would be pretty sure that the 
writing could not have originated at that 
time ; that it must have a later date. 

There are many other historical inaccura- 
cies which I cannot stop to mention. They 
are of small account ; they do not affect the 
value of the book at all, because the book is 
not history ; when we come to get at the 
real character of it we shall see that these 
unimportant matters in no wise impair its 
real worth. But they do make it clear, not 
only that the narrative is not historical, but 
also that it was not written in the time of 
the Babylonian empire. 

The most convincing evidence of the real 
character of the book is yet to be presented. 
Let it be remembered that the second part 
of Daniel, that which is occupied with cer- 
tain symbolic visions, has generally been 
regarded as prophetic. That is the tradi- 
tional view of it. These visions of the four 
beasts, and the ram and the he goat, and 
all the rest, are supposed to be symbols of 
future rulers and kingdoms. Daniel is con- 
ceived to be a prophet who stands upon the 
heights of preternatural vision in the sixth 


century before Christ, and surveys the 
coming centuries. 

One thing strikes us as remarkable. If 
Daniel was a Jewish exile, living in Baby- 
lon, his heart, like the hearts of all his 
companions in exile, must have been full of 
longing for the restoration of the Jews to 
their own land. But this is a subject which 
does not enter at all into his dreams and 
visions. That Eestoration was just about 
to occur, but he has no word of promise con- 
cerning it. He is supposed to be unfolding 
the providence of God concerning his peo- 
ple, but he has not a syllable of encour- 
agement to offer them concerning that great 
intervention of Providence in their behalf 
which they are so soon to experience. In- 
stead of this he gives a somewhat vague and 
general outlook over certain great dynastic 
changes which are to occur in the Eastern 
world, and then, after a flight over four cen- 
turies, and a bird's-eye view of the progress 
of history, he suddenly drops down into the 
second century before Christ and begins to 
describe, very minutely, the events which 
were to happen during the reign of a Gre- 
cian king, Antiochus Epiphanes. 

This prophecy then, if prophecy it is, is 


radically unlike any other prophecy in the 
Bible. All the other prophecies — with the 
exception of those words which set forth the 
Messianic hope — deal with events which 
are nigh, even at the doors. It is the imme- 
diate future with which all the Old Testa- 
ment prophets are concerned.^ It is the 
crisis which is impending to which they point ; 
the deliverance at hand which they rouse 
the people to achieve. All this Old Testa- 
ment prophecy has immediate reference to 
conduct, — to the conduct of the people to 
whom it is addressed. It is no vague prog- 
nostication about far-off events ; if you have 
any such notion about it you dimly under- 
stand the nature of Old Testament prophecy. 
Isaiah and Jeremiah and Amos and Micah 
were men who looked into the future, but 
no farther into the future than the people 
to whom they spoke might expect to go ; 
and their purpose was always practical ; they 
were trying to shape that future, through 
the conduct of those to whom they uttered 
their message. To have spoken of what 
would happen four hundred years after they 
were dead and gone — further than to hold 

1 This assumes, of course, the late date of the last 
twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah. 


up the great promise of the prevalence of 
the Messiah's kingdom — would have been 
to them a meaningless performance. It 
would not have comported at all with their 
notion of their office. 

Furthermore, whatever predictions of fu- 
ture events they uttered were always put in 
a general form. It was only in outline that 
they sought to reveal the future. They 
might predict the downfall of a nation, but 
they never made circumstantial statements 
about the manner of its overthrow. They 
do not undertake to give a definite pro- 
gramme of national events. The reason for 
this is plain. Neither men nor nations are 
profited by having the future disclosed to 
them. The providence of God most wisely 
keeps us in ignorance of what is going to 
happen to us. 

" Heaven from all creatures hides the book of fate." 

Our Lord himself expressly said that of 
the day and the hour of the coming retribu- 
tions, " knoweth no one, not even the angels 
in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." 
To give in minute detail events which are 
to take place in the life of a man or of a 
nation would be to paralyze free will and 


destroy responsibility. We should have 
nothing to do but to watch the unrolling of 
the scroll of fate. This is not God's way 
of dealing with men. " We walk by faith, 
not by sight." And all the prophecy of the 
Old Testament, outside of the book of Dan- 
iel, respects this principle of the divine ad- 
ministration. As Nitzsch has said, "it is 
an essential condition of prophecy that it 
should not disturb man's relation to history." 
If now this book of Daniel was really 
written in the sixth century before Christ, 
and does give us a minutely detailed account 
of the events which were going to happen in 
the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, four hun- 
dred years later, the book violates the whole 
economy of prophecy as it is disclosed to us 
in other parts of the Old Testament, — first 
in describing in an enigmatical manner dy- 
nasties and personages of which the people 
of that day could have had no knowledge, 
for whose doings and misdoings they could 
have had no responsibility, and whose his- 
tory must have been a perfect riddle to 
them ; secondly, in giving such a definite 
programme of those far-off future events as 
would, if it were accepted as laid down by 
divine authority, weaken the responsibility 


of the people whose life it thus delineated, 
when the day should come in which the pre- 
dictions were to be fulfilled. 

Suppose that in the colonial days of this 
nation — the days of Otis and Samuel Adams 
— a prophet of God had appeared. What 
would have been his message? Judging 
from all that we know of prophecy he would 
have told them, in a general way, something 
concerning the revolutionary struggle just 
before them, and its probable results. But 
suppose that he had wholly ignored the rev- 
olutionary period, and had proceeded to give 
them, in some detail, under symbolic forms, 
the events of the war of the Rebellion. 
What could the people of that time have 
made out of such a prediction ? How could 
they have understood it ? What good would 
it have done them? It would only have 
filled their minds with confusion. It would 
have given them no light whatever on the 
tremendous questions then before them. I 
doubt whether any of us can persuade our- 
selves that the Spirit of truth ever sends 
supernatural messengers to men with such 
irrelevant messages ; or that He ever cripples 
the free action of any people, by laying down, 
centuries beforehand, the programme of the 


events which are to take place in their na- 
tional life. 

To maintain that the book of Daniel was 
written in the reign of Nebuchadrezzar, and 
that it is a prediction which culminates in a 
detailed description of the reign of Antio- 
chus Epiphanes, is to ask us to believe that 
in this book the fundamental principles of 
the divine administration are set at naught. 

We may well hesitate before adopting 
this theory. Certainly an easier explana- 
tion of the book may be found. 

The interpretation is not far to seek. 
The book is not a prophecy. It is an apoc- 
alypse. It is one of the first specimens of 
a kind of literature which flourished exceed- 
ingly in the centuries just before and just 
after the beginning of our era. " An apoca- 
lypse, so far as its literary form is con- 
cerned," says Dean Farrar, " claims through- 
out to be a supernatural revelation, given to 
mankind by the mouth of those men in 
whose names the various writings appear. 
An apocalypse — such for instance as the 
Book of Enoch, the Assumption of Moses, 
Baruch, 1 and 2 Esdras, and the Sibylline 
Oracles — is characterized by its enigmatic 
form which shrouds its meaning in parables 


and symbols. It indicates persons without 
naming them, and shadows forth historic 
events under animal forms or as operations 
of Nature." ^ The author of an apocalypse is 
apt to put his words into the mouth of some 
historic or traditional personage of eminence. 
The cases just mentioned in the quotation 
from Dean Farrar are illustrations. 

The author of this book undoubtedly lived 
during the reign of Antiochus Epiphaues, 
and the sufferings of his people under the 
reign of this oppressor lay heavily upon his 
heart. He sought to impart to them a les- 
son of hope and encouragement. The form 
of the apocalypse, employed already, to 
some extent, by Ezekiel and Zechariah, sug- 
gests itself to him ; and the figure of Daniel, 
who may have been an historical person, 
one of the Jewish exiles, connected with 
the court of Nebuchadrezzar, and concerning 
whom traditions, and perhaps written narra- 
tives, had come down to him, is chosen by 
him to be the subject of his story. Just how 
large a portion of these narratives about 
Daniel consists of fact and how much of it is 
fancy, we may not know : the elements are 
woven together after the manner of the lit- 
1 Op, cit. p. 77. 


erature of that period. In the Apocrypha 
are several books of this character, none of 
which, however, compares with this in ethical 
and spiritual value ; but the literary type is 
the same. These books were written about 
the same time that Daniel was written, and 
the resemblances of some of them to Daniel 
are very striking. " In short," says Dean 
Farrar, " the Book of Daniel may be illus- 
trated by the apocryphal books in every 
single particular. In the adoption of an il- 
lustrious name — which is the most marked 
characteristic of this period — it resembles 
the additions to the Book of Daniel, the 
Books of Esdras, the Letters of Baruch 
and Jeremiah, and the Wisdom of Solomon. 
In the imaginary and quasi-legendary treat- 
ment of history it finds a parallel in Wis- 
dom xvi.-xix., and parts of the Second Book 
of Maccabees and the Second Book of Es- 
dras. As an allusive narrative bearing on 
contemporaneous events under the guise of 
describing the past, it is closely parallel to 
the Book of Judith. . . . As an ethical de- 
velopment of a few scattered historical 
data, tending to the marvelous and super- 
natural, but rising to the dignity of a very 
noble and important religious fiction, it is 


analogous, though incomparably superior, to 
Bel and the Dragon, and to the stories of 
Tobit and Susanna. The conclusion is ob- 
vious ; and it is equally obvious that when 
we suppose the name of Daniel to have been 
assumed and the assumption to have been 
supported by a unique coloring, we do not for 
a moment charge the unknown author . . . 
with any dishonesty. Indeed it seems to us 
that there are many traces in this book — 
cfjwvavTa (rwerota-iv — which exonerate the 
writer from any suspicion of intentional 
deception. They may have been meant to 
remove any tendency to error in understand- 
ing the artistic guise which was adopted for 
the better and more forcible inculcations of 
the lessons to be conveyed." ^ 

" A very noble and important religious fic- 
tion " this Book of Daniel undoubtedly is, — 
the noblest and the most important religious 
fiction in the whole Bible. But if it is a 
work of religious fiction, originating about 
the middle of the century before Christ, 
then those historical errors and anachro- 
nisms which we have discovered are easily 
explained. It is not at all singular that 
errors of this sort should appear at such a 
1 Op. cit. pp. 84, 85. 


distance from the events referred to ; nor 
are they of any consequence. The value of 
the writing is not affected by them in the 
least. They are not intended to teach us 
history ; the character of Daniel, as it is ex- 
hibited in this narrative, his heroic fidelity to 
duty, his sublime courage, his faith in God, 
sets before us the kind of man that we all 
ought to be ; and to these Jews, themselves 
walking among ravening lions, and passing 
through furnaces of persecution, this sub- 
lime teaching was exactly what they needed. 
I suppose that they perfectly understood the 
meaning of the book when it was placed in 
their hands ; the rapid sketch of the cen- 
turies past and the minute recital of events 
happening before their eyes were intelligible 
to them, and the grand character of Daniel 
braced their courage and strengthened their 
fidelity. Many of the symbolical allusions 
that are enigmas to us were plain enough to 
them ; some of these mystical numbers with 
which commentators have been wrestling for 
centuries referred, I dare say, to processes 
which were going on before their eyes. 

One wonders what the man who wrote 
this book and the people who first read it 
would say, if they could be permitted to 


come back to earth and read the explana- 
tions of it which have been offered by learned 
men during the last fifteen hundred years ! 

The greater part of the mystery and ob- 
scurity of this book has arisen, therefore, 
from the attempt to give it a character 
which does not belong to it, and to treat it 
as if it were a book which looked forward 
from the sixth century before Christ, instead 
of its being a book which looks backward 
from the second century before Christ. We 
have dressed the book up in our own pre- 
possessions and conceits and have tried to 
make its language tally with our theories. 
We have had exactly the same kind of 
trouble with it that the astronomers had 
with the planets while they were sticking to 
the theory that the earth is the centre of the 
universe. As soon as they found out that 
the sun was the centre, a great many of their 
puzzles were solved. In like manner the 
Book of Daniel becomes intelligible to us 
as soon as we discover that instead of being 
written in the sixth century it was written in 
the second. 

The book before us is not, therefore, his- 
tory. It is a kind of story, to which the 
Jews gave a distinctive name ; they called it 


Haggada ; many specimens of these Hag- 
gadoth are still extant, quite a number of 
which originated about this time. 

In trying to describe the life of the Baby- 
lonian court four hundred years before his 
day, the writer kept as close as he could to 
the facts of history and the manners of the 
time ; and in many respects the picture is 
true to the life of that day. It is rather 
remarkable that a writer at such a distance 
from the age of Nebuchadrezzar could have 
got in so much true local coloring. The 
author of " Ben Hur " or of " Quo Vadis " 
had a far easier task, for the immense his- 
torical and archaeological collections of to* 
day were not paralleled by anything within 
the reach of a Jewish scholar residing in 
Palestine in the days of the Seleucidae. 
Still, there are a good many historical errors 
and anachronisms, enough to prove, beyond 
the shadow of a doubt, the late origin of the 
book. In a work of fiction these errors are 
not important ; the desperate attempts which 
have been made to reconcile them with his- 
torical facts might well have been spared. 
It saddens one to think of the years that 
have been wasted in such work, and of the 
sophistication which has been suffered by 


the intellects and the consciences of many- 
theologians and commentators in their ef- 
fort to twist this narrative into conformity 
with the facts of history. Intelligent in- 
terpreters are well content to turn from these 
futile and confusing conjectures to the les- 
sons which the book is intended to convey. 

If this is Haggada, and not history, then 
the task of explaining the supernatural ele- 
ments which it contains need give us no 
trouble. We are not called to prove the 
actual occurrence of incidents, whether nat- 
ural or supernatural, related in a romance. 
The writer's purpose is aU that need con- 
cern us ; in the structure of his story much 
liberty is allowed him. For myself I am 
free to say that what men call the supernat- 
ural is not to me the stumbling-block that 
it is to some ; the spiritual, as I understand 
it, is always the supernatural ; the right of 
reason and love to control physical forces, 
and to make them servants of the higher in- 
terests of man, is a right that I shall never 
hesitate to affirm ; and so long as the spirit- 
ual side of man is acknowledged to be supe- 
rior to the merely physical, so long we have 
the substance of what I understand by the 
supernatural. And when any being appears 


in history in whom the spiritual faculties are 
fully developed, in whom has appeared 
that manifestation of the divine which the 
whole creation is waiting to see in all of us, 
in the hands of that man I expect to see the 
forces of nature pliant and tractable as they 
are not in ours ; I expect to see him easily 
doing many things that look to me mirac- 
ulous. So when Jesus Christ is represented 
as doing such things the statement does not 
confound me ; and when I am told of his 
appearance after death, there is only in that 
a sign of the superiority of the life of the 
perfect spirit to external conditions which is 
the very substance of my faith and the foun- 
dation of my morality. There is no reason, 
therefore, why I should wish to get rid of 
any of the supernatural elements of the 
Book of Daniel simply because they are su- 
pernatural ; my philosophy does not call for 
any such surrender. But, on the other 
hand, it is evident that we are not called 
upon to prove the actual occurrence of inci- 
dents narrated in a work of fiction. What 
we are concerned with, as I have said, is the 
author's purpose. For this is certainly fic- 
tion with a purpose ; we have no other kind 
of fiction in the Bible. The book was writ- 


ten wlien tlie Jews were passing througli the 
terrible tyranny of Antioclius ; when they 
were suffering from persecutions which 
robbed them of their liberties and defiled 
their sanctuaries and sought to stamp out 
their most sacred institutions. The lesson 
that the author wanted to teach the peo- 
ple was that God is always in his world, 
watching over his own; that it is safe to 
trust in Him; that no earthly power can 
withstand his might ; that the gates of hell 
shall not prevail against Him. Deeper than 
this, even, went the theological purport of 
this teaching. The God of Israel, Jehovah, 
was the God of righteousness. In all the 
great teaching of the prophets his moral and 
spiritual attributes are emphasized. His 
power and supremacy are always affirmed; 
but the reason why He is above aU the gods 
of the nations is that He doeth righteousness. 

" Thy throne, God, is for ever and ever ; 
A sceptre of equity in the sceptre of thy king-dom." 

The bulwarks of his dominion are purity 
and goodness and truth and love. In this 
respect the religion of Israel differs funda- 
mentally from the religions of the nations by 
which it was surrounded. Their gods were the 
personifications of force rather than of right- 


eousness. The fundamental article of the 
Jewish faith was, therefore, that right is 
stronger than might ; that the moral forces 
of the universe are the regnant forces. This 
was the faith of the author of the Book 
of Daniel; this was the lesson which he 
sought to impress upon the suffering people 
of his generation. 

Now it is undoubtedly true that his way 
of conceiving these sublime truths is some- 
what different from ours, — more objective, 
more dramatic, more childish, if you please. 
The laws of the moral realm, with their re- 
wards and retributions, are always crudely 
conceived in the beginning ; first that which 
is natural, afterward that which is spiritual. 
This author shows us virtue triumphing in a 
manner in which we do not now always ex- 
pect to see it triumph. We know that the 
heroic souls who abide with God are safe with 
Him ; but they are not always rewarded by 
deliverance from physical peril and suffering 
in this world, and by receiving the crown and 
the sceptre here. The tragedy of Calvary 
has given us a deeper insight into the truth 
of things. We know that the greatest vic- 
tories are only won by those who lay their 
all upon the altar of sacrifice, who are faith- 


ful unto death. We know that it is not for 
us to stipulate that the mouths of lions shall 
be stopped, or the fires of persecution made 
harmless ; like the six hundred at Balaklava, 
when the order comes, it is ours not to make 
reply, or to reason why, but only to do and 
die ; like Childe Roland we must set our 
lance in rest and blow our challenge, even 
when the dark tower is opening its jaws to 
devour us, and all the hosts of hell are 
ranged against us. It is then, according to 
our faith, that we are conquerors and more 
than conquerors. 

Still, though the costume of the thought 
may be different, the essential truth of these 
stories of the Book of Daniel is that in 
which we rest our souls ; we believe, as these 
authors believed, that it is safe to trust in 
the eternal Righteousness ; that nothing 
else is safe. To believe that force is ruled 
by right, that the Everlasting Yea is that 
which affirms the moral law — this is the 
victory which overcometh the world. This 
it was that the author of the Book of Daniel 
believed ; and this it was which he sought 
to impress upon the minds of his persecuted 
countrymen in one of the darkest hours of 
their history. 


The first six chapters of this book contain 
six stories of Daniel and his companions, 
each of which presents to us this great truth 
under a different form. 

In the first chapter we see the four He- 
brew youths, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael 
and Azariah, dwelling in the king's palace, 
under the care of Ashpenaz the Rabsaris, or 
Master of the Eunuchs. They were of royal 
blood, as we are told, and they had been 
selected from the other captives by reason 
of their great beauty and intelligence. Like 
the Muslim rulers of later times, the Baby- 
lonian monarch trained his captives for high 
service ; perhaps it was from this story that 
the Turk got a hint for his janizaries. For 
three years these boys were to be subjected 
to the regimen of the royal household, that 
they might be made adepts in the occult sci- 
ences of divination then cultivated at the 
East. Their names were first changed ; for 
like most Hebrew names each of them was 
derived from the name of the God of Israel, 
in one or the other of its two forms, Elohim 
or Jehovah. The syllables " El," or " iah," 
connected with a Hebrew name always de- 
note some relation to God. The fatherhood 
of God was thus assumed by the Hebrews, 


although its full significance was dimly un- 
derstood. Of course these names which so 
distinctly recognized the God of Israel would 
not be tolerated in the Babylonian court, 
and the four young Hebrews soon found 
themselves registered and accosted as Belte- 
shazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 
In the invention of these names the author 
shows his lack of exact knowledge of the 
Chaldean tongue ; for Belteshazzar is not, as 
he suj)j)oses, a derivation from Bel the Chal- 
dean deity, and Abed-nego is undoubtedly 
meant for Abed-nebo, or " servant of Nebo," 
one of the Chaldean deities, while Meshach 
is a name for which there seems to be no 
known equivalent in the Chaldean language. 
These boys were to be fed from the king's 
table ; but to this arrangement they imme- 
diately raise an objection. The impression 
has generally been that their protest was 
made for hygienic reasons — because they 
preferred a more frugal and wholesome fare 
to the luxurious viands of the royal menage. 
But it was undoubtedly the dictate of reli- 
gion more than hygiene which governed 
them ; the sin of eating meats which were 
not "kosher," or ceremonially clean, accord- 
ing to the Jewish ritual, was being strongly 


emphasized at the time when this book was 
written, and it was natural for the writer to 
represent this as a point of conscience 
among the Hebrew exiles. Accordingly the 
lads are represented as begging to be per- 
mitted to live upon pulse and water, by 
which is meant, no doubt, a simple vegeta- 
ble diet ; and although Ashpenaz hesitates 
about granting their request for fear that 
their health will fail under this meagre nour- 
ishment, they gain the consent of one of his 
subordinates, and their experiment is so suc- 
cessful that at the end of the three years 
they come forth in far better condition than 
any of the rest of the king's youth. And 
not only are they superior in physical 
strength and beauty to their companions, 
but their intellectual progress has been 
equally notable ; and the king in his con- 
versation with them finds them so far above 
the rest that they are chosen to become his 
personal attendants. And the honor and 
dignity thus simply won is nobly main- 
tained ; in the following years they fail not 
to command the respect of those round 
about them. 

The meaning of this beautiful story lies 
upon its face. No labored explanation is 


needed. These Hebrew lads, under circum- 
stances of great temptation, were true to 
their own convictions. No matter if the 
scruple which they maintained was mere 
ritual requirement ; to them it was a matter 
of duty, and they were loyal to the highest 
obligation they had conceived. They were 
in Babylon, but instead of doing what the 
Babylonians did, they did what conscience 
bade, and for doing it they found favor 
with God and men. They were willing to 
be counted singular and fanatical, to con- 
front ridicule and contempt and perhaps 
the loss of all things, if so be they might be 
found faithful to the highest truth they 
knew. Such is the lesson of this first chap- 
ter; and who can doubt that the courage 
and fidelity of hundreds of thousands of 
boys, both Jew and Gentile, have been 
strengthened by the narrative of Daniel and 
his three companions. 

And although the primary motive of 
these lads in living an abstemious life was 
religious rather than hygienic, yet there 
can be no doubt that their experience has 
served in all the ages to justify and encour- 
age a life of temperance and sobriety ; and 
that those who have sought to maintain the 


integrity of the soul by keeping the body 
under have found their purposes confirmed 
by this beautiful story. 

The second chapter is the story of a 
dream of Nebuchadrezzar and its interpre- 
tation by Daniel. We have here a striking 
parallel to the story of Joseph, in the book 
of Genesis. In each of these stories there 
is a Hebrew boy dwelling in the court of a 
great king ; in each, the boy is represented 
to possess great physical beauty and intel- 
lectual alertness ; in each the monarch has 
a dream which troubles him, and which 
neither he nor his wise men can interpret ; 
in each the Hebrew boy is called in to 
interpret the dream, and receives as his 
reward the prime ministership of the king- 
dom. There can be little doubt that the 
author of Daniel was familiar with the 
story of Joseph, though he enlarges upon 
it, and makes his narrative more dramatic 
than the other. There are one or two slight 
slips of memory, as I have before explained ; 
for he here puts this dream in the second 
year of the reign of Nebuchadrezzar, while 
in the first chapter he explains that these 
boys were by command of King Nebuchad- 
rezzar three years in training, at the end of 


which time they were brought before the 
king for their triumphant examination by 
him. If Daniel had been made grand vizier 
in the second year of the king's reign he 
could not very well have been, by the 
king's command, three years in seclusion as 
a pupil in the king's school. Nor is the 
careful explanation of Arioch to the king 
that he had found a man among the Jewish 
captives who could interpret the dream, 
quite consistent with the statement of the 
first chapter that the king in his examina- 
tion of the four lads discovered that they 
knew ten times more than all the magicians 
and enchanters that were in all his realm. 
If he had made that discovery, it seems 
natural that he would have called for Daniel 
before ; or at any rate that Arioch should 
not have found it necessary to tell him of 
the existence of Daniel. These are simply 
nuances in the story-teller's art ; they show 
that the unities have not been carefully 
studied by him ; he is not thinking very 
much of the consistency of his plot; his 
heart is full of the deeper meaning of it. 

The feature by which this story differs 
from its parallel in Genesis is the fact that 
the king not only could not interpret the 


dream, but could not even remember it. 
This was the exorbitant demand which he 
made upon his wise men, — that they should 
first tell him the dream which he had for- 
gotten and then interpret it. With true 
Oriental arbitrariness he threatens them 
that if they do not recall to him the dream, 
they shall all be cut in pieces and their 
houses be made a dunghill. This they can- 
not do ; but Daniel, who with his three 
companions belongs to this order of the 
wise men and is involved in the threatened 
destruction, begs for a stay of execution, 
and in prayer obtains from his God the 
forgotten dream, and also its interpretation. 
The modesty of the young man in all this 
transaction, his scrupulous care in insist- 
ing that this wisdom of his is but the gift 
of God, and his courage and fidelity in dis- 
closing a matter that must have been some- 
what unwelcome to the king, are all traits 
of a noble character. 

The dream, as Daniel rehearses it, was of 
an image with head of fine gold, with breast 
and arms of silver, with belly and thighs of 
brass, with legs of iron, and with feet part 
of iron and part of clay. Against this 
image a stone cut out of the mountain 


without hands is mightily projected, which 
smites the image in its weakest part, its 
frail and crumbling feet, and pulverizes the 
whole till the summer wind carries it away 
as chaff of the threshing-floor, while the 
demolishing stone grows into a great moun- 
tain that fills the earth. The dream, as 
Daniel explains it, is an outline of the 
succession of dynasties. Nebuchadrezzar's 
kingdom is the head of gold ; this Daniel 
makes clear. What kingdoms are repre- 
sented by the silver and the brass and the 
iron mixed with clay has been the puzzle of 
the commentators ; but almost all modern 
scholars agree that they are the Median, 
the Persian, and the Macedonian, — the lat- 
ter dividing in the empires of the Syrian 
Seleucidae and the Egyptian Ptolemies, 
The stone without hands is the Messianic 
kingdom, the kingdom of God, which is at 
length to prevail over all other empires and 
fill the whole earth. 

Inasmuch as the writer was living in the 
time of this fourth kingdom, it will be seen 
that in his symbolic sketch of these dynas- 
ties he is looking backward, not forward; 
and that the only prophetic note is that of 
the growth of the Messianic kingdom, whose 


victory over the tottering empire of Antio- 
chus he is eagerly awaiting. 

The one great truth which this vision sets 
forth is the transiency and essential weak- 
ness of all these glittering kingdoms, founded 
on force and self-will, and appealing only to 
the love of pomp and splendor, — the cer- 
tainty of their downfall before the growing 
might of the empire of righteousness and 
truth. This was the truth with which the 
author sought to solace his people, trampled 
beneath their feet of iron and clay. For, 
says Dean Farrar, " apart from the Divine 
predictions of this eternal sunlight visible 
on the horizon over vast foreshortened ages 
of time, which to God are but as one day, 
let us notice how profound is the symbolism 
of the vision, — how well it expresses the 
surface glare, the inward hollo wness, the 
inherent weakness, the varying successions, 
the predestined transience of overgrown em- 
pires." ^ 

In describing the effect upon the king of 
the narration of this dream, the writer some- 
what oversteps the bounds of probability. 
However reasonable it might be to suppose 
that an Oriental monarch would prostrate 
1 Op. cit. p. 153. 


himself upon his face to worship a Hebrew 
youth, we can hardly suppose that such a 
devout spirit as Daniel is represented to be 
would suffer himself to be the recipient of 
divine honors ; or would have permitted 
sacrifices to be offered to him and incense 
to be burned before him. Nor can we deem 
it consistent that a youth who had refused 
even to eat of food from the king's table 
would consent to be put at the head of the 
whole heathen cult of magians, as the 
story represents. But whatever lack of vrai- 
semhlance the story may manifest in its de- 
tails, the truth that the God of righteous- 
ness is the greatest of all the gods, that they 
who trust in Him shall not be confounded, 
and that it is his kingdom which shall at 
last prevail, is set forth in characters of liv- 
ing light. The prayer of Daniel is one that 
can never fail to express the deepest thought 
of the most enlightened worshiper. 

" Blessed be the name of God forever and 
ever, for wisdom and might are his ; and he 
changeth the times and the seasons ; he re- 
moveth kings and setteth up kings ; he giv- 
eth wisdom unto the wise and knowledge to 
them that know understanding ; he revealeth 
the deep and secret things ; he knoweth what 


is in the darkness, and tlie light dwelleth 
with him ! " 

The third chapter is the story of the He- 
brew Children, Daniel's three companions. 
Singularly, although according to the tale 
he is now grand vizier of the kingdom, he 
seems to have no part in the events of this 
chapter ; he is not consulted, nor does he in 
any way intervene for the protection of his 
friends. Of course the reconcilers who take 
this for history have explanations enough ; 
they tell us that he was probably absent 
from the capital on some business of state. 
Still the erection of such an image of gold 
as is here described, ninety feet in height 
and nine feet in breadth, must have strained 
somewhat the royal exchequer. It would 
seem that the prime minister must have 
known something about it. As nearly as I 
can calculate a figure of that size in solid 
gold would have consumed a full third of 
all the gold on the face of the earth to-day, 
and it is not likely that the world possessed, 
at that day, one third of its present store of 
gold. But those who wish to make history 
of this chapter suggest that the image may 
have been only gilded, and if that were all, 
a very small amount of the yellow metal 


would suffice. However, we are not now 
concerned to justify the historicity of the 
chapter. The story-teller must have his 

What is more remarkable is the attitude 
of Nebuchadrezzar in this chapter. The 
same monarch who had prostrated himself 
before Daniel in the most abject recognition 
of the might of Daniel's God now proceeds 
to erect this stupendous idol of gold, pre- 
sumably dedicated to Bel-merodach or Nebo, 
the patron deities of Babylon, and to sum- 
mon all the officials of the kingdom to come 
and bow down before it. How long this 
was after the events of the last chapter the 
writer does not tell us ; but the progress of 
the story gives us the impression that the 
sudden conversion of Nebuchadrezzar was 
followed, like many sudden conversions, by 
a speedy backsliding. The terms in which 
the despot commands all his subjects to wor- 
ship this idol, the work of his hands, are 
sonorous and stately enough. 

" Then the satraps and the governors, the 
judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the 
sheriffs, and the rulers of the provinces were 
gathered together unto the dedication of the 
image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had 


set up ; and they stood before the image that 
Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the her- 
ald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, 
O peoples, nations, and languages, that at 
what time ye hear the sound o£ the cornet, 
flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and 
all kinds of music, ye fall down and wor- 
ship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar 
the king hath set up ; and whoso falleth 
not down and worshipeth shall the same 
hour be cast into a burning fiery furnace." 

This command the three friends of Daniel, 
under their new names, Shadrach, Meshach, 
and Abed-nego, refused to obey. The where- 
abouts of Daniel himself in all these great 
festivities we are left to conjecture. The 
only recusants reported are his three com- 
panions, who had themselves been lifted to 
satrapies, at the time of his elevation, but 
who had not forsaken the worship of the 
God of their fathers. It is the Chaldeans, 
some of the magian priests, who bring to 
Nebuchadrezzar the report of their disobe- 
dience to his decree. The king is wroth, but 
he offers them another opportunity. Once 
more the solemn music shall sound ; if then 
they prostrate themselves, well ; but if they 
refuse, the same hour they shall be cast into 


the burning fiery furnace, "and who," he 
demands, " is that God that shall deliver 
you out of my hands ? " The answer of the 
three young men is one of the memorable 
words that time has treasured for us : " O 
Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to an- 
swer thee in this matter. If it be so, our 
God whom we serve is able to deliver us 
from the burning fiery furnace, and he will 
deliver us out of thine hand, O king ! But 
if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that 
we will not serve thy gods nor worship the 
golden image which thou hast set up." 

These faithful ones do not admit that God 
is not able to deliver them ; that is not their 
meaning ; but they do not know that He will 
find it wise and right to save them alive. 
That is more than any man in such a crisis 
can affirm. They were aware, as Dean 
Farrar says, " that in many cases it has not 
been God's purpose to deliver his saints out 
of the peril of death ; and that it has been 
far better for them that they should be car- 
ried heavenward on the fiery chariot of 
martyrdom. They were therefore perfectly 
prepared to find that it was the will of God 
that they should perish, as thousands of God's 
faithful ones had perished before them, from 


the tyrannous and cruel hands of man ; and 
they were cheerfully willing to confront that 
awful extremity. Thus regarded, the three 
words 'But if not' are among the sublim- 
est uttered in all Scripture. They represent 
the truth that the man who trusts in God 
will continue to say to the end, ' Though he 
slay me, yet will I trust in him.' They are 
the triumph of faith over all adverse cir- 
cumstances. ... It is man's testimony to 
his indomitable belief that the things of 
sense are not to be valued in comparison to 
that high happiness which arises in obe- 
dience to the law of conscience, and that 
no extremities of agony are commensurate 
with apostasy. This it is, which, more than 
anything else, has, in spite of appearances, 
shown that the spirit of man is of heavenly 
birth, and has enabled him to unfold — 

' The wings •wit hin him wrapped and proudly rise 
Redeemed from earth, a creature of the skies.' 

For whenever there is left in man any true 
manhood, he has never shrunk from accept- 
ing death rather than the disgrace of com- 
pliance with what he despises and abhors. 
This it is which sends our soldiers on the 
forlorn hope, and makes them march with a 
smile upon the batteries which vomit their 


cross-fires upon tliem ; ' and so die by thou- 
sands the unnamed demigods.' By virtue 
of this it has been that all the martyrs have, 
' with the irresistible might of their weak- 
ness,' shaken the solid world." ^ 

The fury of the king whose power to co- 
ierce the soul is thus gloriously resisted, the 
swift execution of the savage decree upon 
the faithful ones, the awful fate of the ser- 
vants of the king who sought to execute the 
decree, and the astonishment and consterna- 
tion of the king when he saw the three men 
walking unharmed through the fire and with 
them a fourth whose aspect was " like a son of 
the gods," the Messenger of the Covenant, 
sent for their protection ; the haste with 
which the confounded monarch calls them 
forth from the furnace, and the promptness 
with which he once more confesses the God 
of Israel and makes proclamation that his 
name shall be revered throughout his domin- 
ions — all this is a story that needs no tell- 
ing where the Bible is published in the com- 
mon speech of the people. 

Is the story true? I have said already 
that it is absurd to defend the miracles of a 
work of fiction. But in a larger and deeper 
1 Op. cit. pp. 176, 177. 


sense it is true ; it is true to the highest and 
divinest principles of human nature ; it is a 
true picture of what man in his noblest mo- 
ments knows himself to be. Many a man 
in his hour of trial has thought of the answer 
of these faithful ones to the king, and his 
courage has been keyed to the same high 
resolve. For what they were ready to do is, 
as every man knows, the essentially and 
eternally right and true and manly thing 
to do. It is when this spirit of fidelity to 
the highest truth he knows makes him ready 
with undrooping eyelids to look tyrants in 
the face, and to walk joyfully into the flames 
of the furnace, that he shows himself worthy 
to be called one of the sons of God. And 
this is the true supernatural, — this triumph 
of the spirit that is in man over the instincts 
and impulses of his lower nature. The in- 
tervention which saves a man from death in 
such an emergency is a wonder ; but the 
courage and fidelity that faces death without 
flinching is more than a wonder ; it is the 
sign and seal of a divine humanity. 

The fourth chapter of Daniel, like all the 
other chapters of the first half of the book, is 
a separate story ; its theme is the temporary 
madness of King Nebuchadrezzar. This 


calamity is represented as having been vis- 
ited upon him as a penalty for his arro- 
gance and pride of power. 

A curious lack of unity appears in the 
literary form of the chapter. It begins with 
what appears to be a letter or decree of 
King Nebuchadrezzar in which he recites 
in the first person a dream that disturbed 
him, and its interpretation by Belteshazzar, 
otherwise Daniel. At the twenty-eighth 
verse the narration changes abruptly from 
the first to the third person ; at the thirty- 
fourth verse, the first person is as suddenly 
resumed. If this were a document from the 
hand of Nebuchadrezzar, the interjection of 
this portion in which he is spoken of would 
be unaccountable. If it is Haggada and not 
history, the imperfect art of the writer 
easily accounts for it. 

This dream of Nebuchadrezzar he is able 
to remember, and the task imposed upon his 
wise men is the easier one of interpretation. 
To this, however, they prove unequal ; and 
it is not until they have miserably failed that 
Daniel is called in again. In real life the 
king would scarcely have gone through the 
motions of summoning these incapables be- 
fore him, when experience had abundantly 


shown him that Daniel knew ten times more 
than all of them. But the story is told to 
display the superiority of the Hebrew seer, 
and the repeated discomfiture of the Baby- 
lonian magians enhances the effect. 

The dream, as the king rehearses it, was 
of a great tree, reaching unto heaven, whose 
leaves were fair, whose fruit abundant, fur- 
nishing food for all, in whose branches 
dwelt the fowls of the heaven, and in whose 
shade rested the beasts of the earth. While 
he beheld, there descended from heaven a 
" watcher" and a "holy one." These terms 
are characteristic of the post-exilic litera- 
ture ; the Persian angelology greatly influ- 
enced the Jewish thought. " It is only after 
the exile," says Farrar, "that we find an- 
gels and demons playing a more prominent 
part than before, divided into classes, and 
even marked out by special names." The 
heavenly messengers, standing in the pres- 
ence of the mighty tree, cry : " Hew down 
the tree and cut off his branches, shake off 
his leaves and scatter his fruit ; let the 
beasts get away from under it and the fowls 
from his branches." The stump only is to 
be spared, and this is to be bound with a 
hoop of iron and brass, and left standing 


among the fresh grasses and the falling 
dews. And now suddenly changes the fig- 
ure of the dream. The stump of the tree 
is invested with human attributes, and the 
angelic judgment proceeds : " Let his por- 
tion be with the beasts in the grass of the 
earth ; let his heart be changed from man's 
and let a beast's heart be given unto him, 
and let seven times pass over him." Figures 
are greatly mixed in this imagery ; the con- 
structive imagination works clumsily. But 
the watchers and the holy ones announce 
that all this dream symbolizes the august 
truth "that the Most High ruleth in the 
kingdom of men and giveth it to whomso- 
ever he will." 

To Daniel, the king tells this dream and 
asks the interpretation. "My lord," the 
seer replies, "the dream be to them that 
hate thee and the interpretation thereof to 
thine adversaries." It is a courtly and gen- 
erous wish that the calamity foreshadowed 
by the dream might fall on his enemies 
rather than on the king himseK. Yet the 
interpretation, ominous as it is, is not with- 
held. Daniel tells the King that the great 
tree is Nebuchadrezzar himself, and that 
the denunciation of destruction against it 


by the watcher and the holy one signifies 
"that thou shalt be driven from men and 
thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the 
field, and thou shalt be made to eat grass 
as oxen, and shalt be wet with the dew of 
heaven, and seven times shall pass over 
thee ; till thou know that the Most High 
ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth 
it to whomsoever he will." 

The stump spared among the grasses and 
the dews is the sign of the restoration of 
the divine favor, after the king has learned 
" that the heavens do rule." And the admo- 
nition of the seer is faithful and unsparing : 
" Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be ac- 
ceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins 
by righteousness and thine iniquities by 
showing mercy to the poor ; if there may be 
a lengthening of thy tranquillity." But the 
king, who here represents himself as having 
earnestly sought the wisdom of Daniel, for- 
gets all about the dream and pays no heed 
to the counsel given. A twelvemonth later 
he is pacing the roof of the mighty palace 
of Babylon, lifted to a great height above 
the splendor of the encircling capital, exult- 
ing in his own magnificence, and saying to 
himself, " Is not this great Babylon which 


I have built for the royal dwelling-place, by 
the might of my power and for the glory of 
my majesty," — when suddenly falls a voice 
from heaven announcing to him the fulfill- 
ment of that forgotten dream. " And he 
was driven from men and did eat grass as 
oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of 
heaven, till his hair was grown like eagle's 
feathers and his nails like bird's claws." At 
the end of the days appointed his under- 
standing returned to him, and he knew the 
meaning of the discipline that had been 
dealt out to him, humbly confessing his 
dependence on the God of heaven, whose 
dominion is an everlasting dominion. " And 
all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed 
as nothing, and he doeth according to his 
will in the army of heaven or among the 
inhabitants of earth, and none can stay his 
hand nor any say unto him. What doest 
thou? " So, chastened by the might of God, 
Nebuchadrezzar is reinstated in his king- 
dom, his counselors and lords come back to 
him, and his reign goes on in glory undi- 
minished. And the chapter ends with the 
stately and solemn words : " Now I, Nebu- 
chadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the 
king of heaven ; for all his works are truth 


and his ways judgment; and those that 
walk in pride he is ready to abase." 

Those who maintain the historical char- 
acter of the book of Daniel have sought in 
vain among the monuments and inscriptions 
for some confirmation of this narrative. 
History knows nothing of any such seven 
years' madness of the great Babylonian king. 
The mental malady from which he is repre- 
sented as suffering is not indeed unknown ; 
lycanthropia and cynanthropia are types of 
insanity in which the patient imagines him- 
self an animal and imitates the habits of the 
beast. But there is no intimation in any of 
the historical records which we possess that 
Nebuchadrezzar was ever afflicted in this 

If the story is what we have assumed it to 
be, the explanation is not difficult. The 
writer is telling about Nebuchadrezzar with 
his eye on Antiochus Epiphanes. A striking 
parallel between these two monarchs would 
present itself to the mind of a devout Jew. 
Each of them had conquered the holy city 
Jerusalem. Each of them had robbed the 
temple of its sacred vessels. Each of them 
had sought to coerce the Jews into a surren- 
der of their faith. And whatever may have 


been true of Nebuchadrezzar, it seems to 
have been true of Antiochus that he was 
subject to spells of melancholy that amounted 
to madness. For this reason he came to be 
popularly known as Antiochus Epimanes, 
Antiochus the Mad. It is evident, then, 
that this story of Nebuchadrezzar is aimed 
at Antiochus ; it is not so much a warning 
to him as it is a word of comfort to the op- 
pressed Israelites, who are encouraged to be- 
lieve that One who is able to " put down the 
mighty from their seats " is their God, and 
that the haughtiness and pride of the ty- 
rant may speedily come to an end. 

The one notable thing in the treatment 
of Nebuchadrezzar is the gentleness of Dan- 
iel's words to him. Room for repentance is 
offered to him ; like the. Book of Jonah, and 
wholly unlike the Book of Esther, this book 
contains a gospel ; the king is graciously 
admonished to break off his sins by right- 
eousness, if peradventure God will be merci- 
ful to him. The Jewish rabbis, we are told, 
have severely censured Daniel for this lenity ; 
they have declared " that Daniel was subse- 
quently thrown into the den of lions to pun- 
ish him for the crime of tendering good ad- 
vice to Nebuchadnezzar ; and, moreover, the 


advice could be of no real use, ' for even if 
the nations of the world do righteousness 
and mercy to prolong their dominion, it is 
only sin to them.' " It is this fierce spirit 
of bigotry which, as we shall see in the next 
chapter, the book of Jonah so clearly re- 

The fifth chapter is a most dramatic pic- 
ture of the downfall of Babylon. Histori- 
cally it is quite as dubious as any other por- 
tion of the book. " Belshazzar the King," 
the subject of this narrative, is not known 
to history. He is called the son of another 
successor of Nebuchadrezzar, but so far as 
we can learn from the inscriptions Nebuchad- 
rezzar had no such son. Evil-merodach 
was the son who succeeded him in the king- 
dom ; he reigned about two years. After him 
came Nergal-sharezer, whose reign lasted 
four years ; then an infant who was nominal 
ruler for nine months, and who was suc- 
ceeded by Nabunaid, in whose hands wa-s 
the kingdom when Babylon was conquered. 
Nabunaid was not the son of Nebuchadrez- 
zar; he was a usurper. It has been sug- 
gested that he may have married a daughter 
of Nebuchadrezzar, but the narrative gives 
the impression that his relation was that of 


blood rather than of marriage. On one of 
the Babylonian tablets was found, not long 
ago, the name of a king, which is somewhat 
similar to Belshazzar, and it was loudly pro- 
claimed that the monuments had vindicated 
the historicity of Daniel; but it turns out 
that this king reigned before the capture of 
the city. That Nabunaid was the king at 
the time of the capture is a well-established 
fact ; and he was not slain, but pardoned by 
the captor and sent to be governor of a dis- 
tant province, where he died. He had a son 
whose name was Belshazzar, but that son 
was never king.^ 

1 " Belshazzar is represented as King of Babylon and 
Nebuchadnezzar is spoken of throug'hout chapter v. as 
\x\B father. In point of f act Naboniden (Nabu-nahid) was 
the last king- of Babylon : he was a usurper, not related 
to Nebuchadnezzar ; and one Belshazzar is mentioned as 
his son. It may be admitted as probable (though the 
fact has not as yet been found to be attested by the inscrip- 
tions) that Belsharezar held command for his father in 
Babylon while the latter (see Sayce, Fresh Light, etc., 
etc., p. 170) took the field against Cyrus ; but it is diffi- 
cult to think that this could entitle him to be spoken of 
by a contemporary, as * king.' As regards his relation- 
ship to Nebuchadnezzar, there remains the possibility 
that Nabuuahid may have sought to strengthen his posi- 
tion by marrying a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, in 
which case the latter might be spoken of as Belshazzar's 
father (grandfather, by Hebrew usage). The terms of 


Moreover it was not Darius tlie Mede 
who took the city and the kingdom, as we 
are told in the last verse, but Cyrus the Per- 
sian. Of this there seems to be no reason- 
able doubt. This Darius the Mede is thus 
far unknown to history. In the ninth chap- 
ter he is called the son of Ahasuerus, that 
is, of Xerxes ; but Xerxes had no such son ; 
his father was Darius Hystaspes, a Persian ; 
and how his son, if he had had one, could 
be Darius " the Mede," is not easily under- 
stood. Besides, Ahasuerus, or Xerxes, did 
not come to the throne until fifty-three 
years after the capture of Babylon by the 
army of Cyrus. The fact is that the author 
has got his historical facts considerably con- 
fused ; he was not so familiar as the monu- 
ments and inscriptions have enabled modern 
scholars to be with the Chaldean succes- 

Professor Sayce is one of the most distin- 

chap. v., however, produce certainly the impression that, 
in the view of the writer, Belshazzar was actually Nebu- 
chadnezzar's son. Though Belshazzar was a historical 
character, who probably held a prominent position at the 
time of the capture of the city, it must be owned that 
the representation given is such as to support somewhat 
strongly the opinion that it is founded upon the Jewish 
tradition of a later age." Driver's Introduction^ 468. 


guished and one of the most conservative 
of modern Assyriologists ; and in his book 
on " The Higher Criticism and the Monu- 
ments " he gives us the results of the impor- 
tant discoveries which have been made dur- 
ing the past few years. It turns out that 
that story of Herodotus which has been so 
often repeated respecting the siege and cap- 
ture of Babylon is an unfounded tradition. 
" There was no siege and capture of Baby- 
lon," says Professor Sayce ; " the capital of 
the Babylonian empire opened its gates to 
the general of Cyrus. Gobryas and his sol- 
diers entered the city without fighting, and 
the daily services in the great temple of Bel- 
merodach suffered no interruption. Three 
months later Cyrus himself arrived and 
made his peaceful entry into the new capi- 
tal of his empire. We gather from the con- 
tract-tablets that even the ordinary business 
of the place had not been affected by the 
war. The siege and capture of Babylon by 
Cyrus is really a reflection into the past of 
the actual sieges undergone by the city in 
the reigns of Darius, son of Hystaspes, and 
Xerxes. It is clear, then, that the editor of 
the fifth chapter of Daniel could have been 
as little a contemporary of the events he 


professes to record as Herodotus. For both 
alike, the true history of the Babylonian 
empire has been overclouded and foreshort- 
ened by the lapse of time. The three kings 
who reigned between Nebuchadnezzar and 
Nabunaid have been forgotten, and the last 
king of the Babylonian empire has become 
the son of its founder." ^ 

With respect to the personage to whom 
is attributed the capture of the city the 
same authority says : — 

" Darius the Mede is in fact a reflection 
into the past of Darius the son of Hystaspes, 
just as the siege and capture of Babylon by 
Cyrus are a reflection into the past of its 
siege and capture by the same prince. The 
name of Darius and the story of the slaugh- 
ter of the Chaldean king go together ; they 
are alike derived from the unwritten history 
which, in the East of to-day, is still made 
by the people, and which blends together in 
a single picture the manifold events and 
personages of the past. It is a history 
which has no perspective, though it is based 
on actual facts ; the accurate combinations 
of the chronologer have no meaning for it, 
and the events of a century are crowded 
1 Op. cit., p. 527. 


into a few years. This is the kind of his- 
tory which the Jewish mind in the time of 
the Talmud loved to adapt to moral and 
religious purposes. This kind of history 
then becomes, as it were, a parable, and, 
under the name of Haggada serves to illus- 
trate that teaching of the law." ^ 

So perfectly clear is the unhistorical char- 
acter of these chapters to the orthodox com- 
mentators that some of the most conserva- 
tive among them now maintain that they 
are an interpolation of a late writer. But 
this is a needless hypothesis ; the whole 
matter is made perfectly simple by recogniz- 
ing the fact that this is not history, but 
religious story, and that the writer, living 
almost four centuries after the period in 
which he places the action of his novel, is 
not clear as to his facts, and gets his chro- 
nology and his characters considerably con- 

The meaning of his story is not, however, 
far to seek. Here again, while the name 
Belshazzar is on his lips the figure of Anti- 
ochus is before his mind. For, as the author 
of the First Book of Maccabees tells us, 
Antiochus, on his return from his first suc- 
1 Op. cit., p. 529. 


cessf ul invasion of Egypt, " went np against 
Jerusalem with a great multitude, and 
entered proudly into the sanctuary and took 
away the golden altar and the candlestick 
of light, and all the vessels thereof, and the 
table of the shewbread, and the pouring 
vessels, and the vials and the censers of 
gold, and the veil and the crowns and the 
golden ornaments which were before the 
temple, all of which he pulled off. He took 
also the silver and the gold and the precious 
vessels ; also he took the hidden treasures 
which he found. And when he had taken 
all away he went into his own land, having 
made a great massacre and having spoken 
very proudly." Nor is it at all improbable 
that this haughty conqueror, who had not 
only robbed but polluted the temple, may 
have used the sacred vessels in some baccha- 
nalian feast. Such a report may have in- 
flamed the soul of this writer, and he may 
have been moved to set forth in this story 
of the imaginary Belshazzar the kind of 
retribution which ought to overtake a tyrant 
guilty of such sacrilege. "The story of 
Belshazzar," says Dean Farrar, " whatever 
dim fragments of Babylonian tradition it 
may enshrine, is really suggested by the 


profanity of Antioclius EpipKanes in carry- 
ing off, and doubtless subjecting to profane 
usage, many of the sacred vessels of the 
Temple of Jerusalem. Tbe retribution 
which awaited the wayward Seleucid tyrant 
is prophetically intimated by the menace of 
doom which received such immediate fulfill- 
ment in the case of the Babylonian king." 

It is a thrilling picture ! How many 
generations of men have been fascinated by 
its flashing imagery! The reckless mon- 
arch, gatheriug his thousand nobles and his 
wives and his concubines about him, violat- 
ing the proprieties of his own court by a 
brazen exposure of his own conviviality, 
and finally bethinking himself that he can 
add to his indecency the pungent spice of 
sacrilege, and so sending for the sacred 
vessels of which the Jewish temple had 
been despoiled that he and his lords, his 
wives and his concubines may drink there- 
from, meanwhile "praising their gods of 
gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of 
wood, and of stone." 

Then comes forth the fateful hand, and 
traces on the wall the fiery inscription. 
The noise of the revelers ceases ; with 
chattering teeth and quaking limbs the 


king cries aloud to his magians to come and 
tell him what it means. Once more these 
useless enchanters are confounded, once 
more Daniel is summoned. It is the queen 
mother who now enters to inform the son of 
Nebuchadrezzar of the existence of Daniel. 
If this were history we should find it hard 
to understand how the son could have needed 
to be told who his father's prime minister 
was, or why he had held a place so exalted. 
But Daniel stands before Belshazzar, and 
the king tells him that if he will decipher 
the writing he shall be clothed in purple 
and wear a chain of gold, and be one of 
three to rule the kingdom. 

" Thy gifts be to thyself, and thy rewards 
to another," answers the man who fears 
God but not the face of a king. And then 
with words of unrelenting directness he tells 
the monarch that his pride and wantonness, 
his reckless profanation of all sanctities, 
and his blasphemous defiance of the God of 
heaven have brought upon him a retribution 
more condign than that which fell upon 
Nebuchadrezzar his father. The fiery let- 
ters, glowing there upon the wall, are the 
prophecy of his doom : " Mene, mene, te- 
kel, upharsin." " Numbered, numbered, 


weighed, divided." The days of your reign 
are numbered ; you yourself are weighed 
and found wanting ; your kingdom is di- 
vided and given to the Medes and Per- 

With a few swift strokes the writer brings 
this story to a close. The king, in the 
midst of his consternation, keeps his pledge ; 
Daniel is clothed in purple and decorated 
with a golden chain and proclaimed to be 
one of a triumvirate to rule the realm. 
" And in that night, Belshazzar the Chal- 
dean king was slain and Darius the Mede 
received the kingdom." 

The application of this parable, the moral 
of this tale, the author does not impose 
upon his readers ; we can readily supply it. 
It is easy to imagine him stretching forth 
his hand toward the palace wherein the 
proud Antiochus holds his court and crying : 
" So perish all they who defy the God of 
heaven, and lay waste his holy place, and 
profane the sacred vessels of his worship." 

We cannot tarry long upon the story of 
the Lion's Den. This happened in the reign 
of that Darius the Mede whose existence is 
unknown to history. Daniel must by this 
time be conceived by the writer as a vener- 


able man ; lie still maintains liis eminence in 
the affairs of state ; lie is one of a triumvi- 
rate of presidents, who supervise all the 
doings and the accounts of the hundred and 
twenty satraps, in charge of provinces, and 
so wise and upright is he that the king 
meditates advancing him to the chancellor- 
ship of the whole realm. This excites the 
jealousy of the other officials, and they re- 
solve to compass his downfall. Civil delin- 
quency they despair of finding in him ; on 
one thing only can they count, — an unswerv- 
ing obedience to the law of his God. If by 
means of this they can bring him into col- 
lision with the law of the realm, they may 
be able to depose him. Accordingly they 
are represented as crowding tumultuously 
into the king's presence, and obtai'hing from 
him a decree that " whoever shall ask a 
petition of any god or man for thirty days, 
save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into 
the den of lions." The imagination of the 
writer has free rein just here ; it is scarcely 
conceivable that any sane monarch could 
promulgate a decree which it would be so 
utterly impossible to enforce, and which, if 
it were obej^ed, would simply put an end to 
human intercourse. But the king is over- 


borne by tbis mob of office-bolders, and 
promulgates tbe interdict wbicb they have 
written for bim. Why he does it without a 
word of consultation with the greatest man 
in all bis realm, the writer does not tell us. 
The plot is successful: Daniel, of course, 
openly disobeys the interdict, praying thrice 
a day with his windows open toward Jeru- 
salem; his disobedience is reported to the 
astonished king, who weakly tries to find a 
way out of the dilemma into which he has 
suffered himself to be drawn, but is finally 
coerced by the rigor of his own prerogative. 
Daniel is thrown to the lions by the king, 
who timidly hopes that the God whom he 
trusts will deliver him. The anxiety and 
distress of the foolish king, the security of 
Daniel among the lions, whose mouths the 
angel of the Lord had closed, the gratitude 
of the monarch when he found. Daniel safe 
in the early morning, and the swift ven- 
geance upon the men who had accused him, 
who, with their children and their wives 
were flung to the ravenous beasts and de- 
voured in a twinkling, — all this is an old 
story. The last fierce touch is the only 
ethical blemish in the book, — the destruc- 
tion of these wives and children for the 


misdoing of their husbands and fathers is 
one of those marks by which we measure 
the defective morality of that old day. 

The story does not need to be expounded. 
The fidelity of Daniel to his convictions ; 
his determination to let no ordinance or 
decree of man separate him from his God ; 
his mighty affirmation of the great truth 
that the human soul must be left free to 
worship its God in its own way — this is a 
truth which was dimly apprehended in that 
time, but on which as on a firm foundation 
the best civilization of the world is resting 
to-day. Antiochus was seeking to coerce 
the Jewish people into apostasy to their 
faith. "Moreover," says the author of 
First Maccabees, " King Antiochus wrote 
to his whole kingdom that all should be 
one people, and every one should have his 
laws ; so all the heathen agreed according 
to the commandment of the king, yea, many 
also of the Israelites consented to his re- 
ligion, and sacrificed unto idols and profaned 
the Sabbath. For the king had sent letters 
by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities 
of Judah, that they should follow the strange 
laws of the land, and forbid burnt offerings 
and sacrifice and drink offerings in the 


temple, and that they should profane the 
Sabbaths and festival days ; and pollute 
the sanctuary and holy people ; set up altars 
and groves and chapels of idols, and sacri- 
fice swine's flesh and unclean beasts ; that 
they should also leave their children uncir- 
cumcised, and make their souls abominable 
with all manner of uncleanness and profana- 
tion ; to the end they might forget the law 
and change all the ordinances ; and whoever 
would not do according to the command- 
ment of the king, he said, he should die." 

Such was the issue which then presented 
itself to faithful Israelites. The story of 
Daniel cast into the lion's den for his heroic 
adherence to the faith of his fathers, and of 
the great deliverance that came to him, was 
calculated to strengthen the courage and the 
confidence of those into whose hands this 
writing fell. They saw in the conduct of 
Daniel a type of the kind of testimony 
which every servant of the living God ought 
to be ready to bear ; and they knew that 
whether life or death should be their portion 
they were safe in the hands of the mighty 
God to whom in the hour of peril they thus 
committed their souls. 

To the closing chapters of this book I 


can give but a word. I have already so 
fully indicated the character of the book, 
that a labored exposition of the apocalypti- 
cal visions is scarcely necessary. That they 
describe in mystic symbolisms the histori- 
cal periods between the reign of Nebuchad- 
rezzar and the tyranny of Antiochus is now 
the all but unanimous verdict of Christian 
scholars ; and for us they have but one great 
word, and that is the utterance of the Mes- 
sianic hope which the writer more than once 
clearly expresses. Evidently it was his ex- 
pectation that the kingdom of light and love 
was to follow almost immediately the down- 
fall of the Antiochian tyranny. Probably, 
too, like most of those who had spoken of 
this coming kingdom, his conceptions of 
it were dim. But while he makes no 
claim to a place among the prophets of 
Israel, his soul, like theirs, is kindled with 
the expectation of a reign of righteousness 
which was yet to fill the earth with peace 
and plenty. To us it seems clear that the 
spiritual Israel, rather than the rehabilitated 
Jewish nationality, was the glory of the fu- 
ture that caught their straining vision ; but 
they hailed its brightness from afar. A cen- 
tury and a half was yet to pass before the 


dawning of that Day-star. "The divinest 
side of Messianic prophecy," says Dean Far- 
rar, " is the expression of that unquenchable 
hope and of that indomitable faith, which 
are the most glorious outcome of all that is 
most Divine in the spirit of man. That 
faith and hope have never found an ideal or 
approximate fulfillment save in Christ and 
in his kingdom, which is now and shall be 
without end." ^ 

1 Op. cit., p. 163. 



If we admit the possibility of the employ- 
ment of the imagination in the production 
of the Scriptural writings, a place is easily 
found for the Book of Jonah. That it is a 
work of the imagination, resting upon some 
historical foundations, is the belief of most 
of the Biblical scholars of the present day. 
So exceedingly cautious and conservative a 
teacher as the former President of Yale, Dr. 
Theodore Woolsey, is quoted by his friend 
Professor Fisher as holding "that this re- 
markable book was originally meant to be 
an apologue, — an imaginative story, linked 
to the name of an historical person, a pro- 
phet of an earlier date, and was composed 
in order to inculcate the lesson with which 
the narrative concludes." Dr. Lyman Ab- 
bott has said no more than this. If the 
estimate of President Woolsey and Profes- 
sor Fisher and most modern Biblical schol- 
ars can be accepted, the questions respecting 

JONAH 24:7 

the preternatural features of the narrative 
at once drop out of the discussion. That 
which is grotesque and fantastic in the 
story may easily be explained by reference 
to the intellectual conceptions of the times 
when it was written ; we are no more con- 
cerned with this than we are with the sci- 
entific or astronomic opinions of the Biblical 
writers, which, as we very well know, were 
not like ours. 

That the story is fiction and not history 
will appear upon examination. There was 
a prophet Jonah, who lived in the time of 
Jeroboam II., in the ninth century before 
Christ. In the Second Book of Kings we 
read of certain prophecies uttered by Jonah 
the son of Amittai, which seem to have had 
some influence upon the conduct of the king ; 
but none of these prophecies are preserved. 
It is not impossible that he was a man of 
eminence in that reign, and that he was sent 
on some embassy to the court of Assyria, 
whose capital of Nineveh was then a power- 
ful city. It is not improbable that he may 
have preached righteousness in that city, and 
that his preaching was not unfruitful. Re- 
specting that errand and its results tradi- 
tions may have come down to the writer of 


this story, M'hich was probably composed 
during the fifth century before Christ, or 
perhaps four hundred years after the day of 
Jonah the son of Amittai* The tradition is 
that Jonah wrote the book, but there is not 
a word in the book itself nor anywhere else 
in the Bible on which to base such a tradi- 
tion ; it is a story about Jonah ; he is always 
put in the third person ; and the attribution 
to him of the authorship is one of those 
utterly baseless conjectures out of which the 
traditional theory of the Old Testament has 
been so largely fabricated. 

That the book is not historical and was 
not written by the prophet Jonah, is indi- 
cated by several obvious considerations. 
First, the reference to Nineveh is one that 
a writer living in the days of Jeroboam II. 
would not be likely to make. He speaks of 
it as if it were a city of ancient history, 
concerning which his readers needed infor- 
mation. '' Now Nineveh," he explains, " was 
an exceeding great city, of three days' jour- 
ney." The circumference of the wall seems 
to be intended by the last phrase. To an 
Israelite living in the ninth century before 
Christ such an explanation would have been 
unnecessary ; and one speaking of the capi- 

JONAH 249 

tal of Assyria at the time of its glory would 
not have said, " Now Nineveh was an exceed- 
ing great city." A writer living four hun- 
dred years later, when Nineveh had been for 
a hundred years a ruin, would naturally 
have spoken of it in this manner. 

In the second place, it is incredible that 
such a complete moral and religious revolu- 
tion as is here depicted should have taken 
place without leaving some record of itself in 
history. We know, from the monuments, 
much about the great events in the Assyrian 
annals, but they give us no hint of such a 
national overturning of thought and life as 
is here described. So far as we can learn, 
the Ninevites were always idolaters, wor- 
shiping the gods of their own nation ; and 
it seems psychologically impossible that the 
preaching of a Hebrew prophet could have 
produced such an absolute change of opinion 
and conduct in the whole population as is 
here delineated. It is said that as the result 
of the preaching of Jonah the people of 
Nineveh " believed God ; " that is, they ac- 
cepted the Hebrew divinity ; " and they pro- 
claimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from 
the greatest of them even to the least of 
them.^'' This is a result of preaching which 


is wholly unexampled in all the records of 
the church. No such immediate conversion 
of an entire population from one faith to 
another has ever been known. And it is 
difficult to believe that such a tremendous 
moral and religious overturning should have 
occurred without leaving a trace of itself 
anywhere upon the monuments and inscrip- 
tions of ancient Nineveh. 

Furthermore, the prophets immediately 
following the time of Jonah, the son of 
Amittai, have a great deal to say about 
Nineveh. Isaiah, Hosea, Zephaniah, Na- 
hum, give us much information concerning 
the Assyrian capital, and direct against it 
some weighty woes and denunciations, but 
none of them so much as intimates any 
knowledge of such an event as is here de- 
scribed. They speak of the Assyrians as 
if they were and had always been idolaters ; 
they do not allude to any previous conver- 
sion of the Ninevites to belief in the Jewish 
religion. It seems incredible that such an 
immense victory for the Jewish faith over 
the Assyria 1 idolatry could have occurred 
only a few years before their day without 
these great prophets knowing it; and it 
seems equally incredible that if they had 

JONAH 251 

known of it they should not have alluded to 
it in the prophecies and admonitions and 
exhortations which they address to the peo- 
ple of Nineveh. To my own mind this fact 
is entirely conclusive. 

Something is added to this historical im- 
probability by the fact that the name of the 
Assyrian king is not given. The great 
monarchs of Assyria during all these years 
were important historical personages ; it 
would seem that one writing at the time 
would have thought it worth while to men- 
tion the king's name. 

The character of the book is thus pretty 
clearly established ; it is a story, composed 
probably after the exile, by some writer of 
remarkable religious insight, for the inculca- 
tion of certain truths which greatly needed 
to be impressed upon the Hebrew mind. 
What these truths were our study of the 
story will make plain. 

The word of the Lord came to Jonah, 
bidding him arise and go to Nineveh and 
cry against it because its iniquity had come 
up before God. To the heavenly vision thus 
vouchsafed him, Jonah is promptly and ob- 
stinately disobedient. Instead of going east- 
ward to Nineveh, he turns his face directly 


westward, going down to the Mediterranean 
coast and taking passage on a ship bound 
for Tarshish in Spain. His reason for go- 
ing, as he confesses later, is his unwilling- 
ness to deliver the message thus committed 
to him; and his unwillingness arises from 
his fear that God will not inflict the doom 
denounced upon the city, but will be moved 
by the penitence of the Ninevites to annul 
the penalty. In that case Jonah would suf- 
fer some loss of reputation as a prophet, and 
Jonah cares more for his reputation as a 
prophet than for the success of his message. 
His sudden flight to the seacoast is due to 
his idea that if he can get away from the 
Land of Israel he will be out of the juris- 
diction of the God of Israel. So he pays 
his fare for Tarshish, and sets forth, — 
neither the first nor the last man who has 
tried to run away from God ; not the first 
nor the last who has imagined that a short 
sea voyage would put him beyond the reach 
of the obligations of duty. 

But a great storm arose ; and the supersti- 
tious sailors are sure that Nemesis is in pur- 
suit of them, so they " cry every man unto 
his god." It would seem that more than 
one faith must have been represented among 

JONAH 253 

tbem ; each man prays to Lis own divinity. 
But the storm does not abate, and at length 
they bethink them of a passenger, asleep in 
the hold, who owes allegiance to some other 
god. So they wake him up and call upon 
him to pray to his god : per ad venture He 
is the god whose wrath has raised this tem- 
pest. But while Jonah is praying they will 
try to find out in another way whose fault 
has brought this storm upon them. The lot 
will tell the culprit, and the lot falls on 
Jonah. And now the poor runaway prophet 
makes a full confession. He tells them that 
he is a Hebrew ; he fears the God of heaven, 
"which hath made the sea and the dry land." 
This is a fact which, apparently, he had not 
fully estimated. The sea — that portion of 
it, at least, which was contigTious to the land 
of Israel — was under the dominion of his 
God ; he had reckoned ill when he thought 
to get away from Jehovah by the way of the 
sea. He now perceives that retribution has 
overtaken him ; and the sailors, to whom he 
has confessed that he is fleeing from the 
presence of Jehovah, are very much afraid. 
" What shall we do unto thee," they cry, 
" that the sea may be calm unto us ? And 
he said unto them, Take me up and cast me 


forth into tlie sea ; so shall the sea be calm 
unto you ; for I know that for my sake this 
great tempest is upon you." That is a mag- 
nanimous word, surely ; the prophet is not 
destitute of nobleness. But these heathen 
sailors are also humane men. They are not 
willing to save their own lives by the sacri- 
fice of the life of Jonah ; so they fall to their 
oars and row lustily to get him back to land, 
but their labor is vain ; more and more bois- 
terously blows the wind off shore ; they can 
make no headway against it. 

So now they lift up their cry, not to their 
own gods, but to the God of Jonah — to 
Jehovah (for this is the Hebrew word which 
always stands in the text when Lord is 
printed in small capitals) : " We beseech thee, 
O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish 
for this man's life, and lay not upon us in- 
nocent blood. So they took up Jonah and 
cast him forth into the sea, and the sea 
ceased from her raging." To the heathen 
sailors this is clear evidence that Jehovah is 
a God of power ; they offer to Him sacrifices 
and vows. 

What happened to Jonah I do not need 
to tell. After his marvelous deliverance, 
the order to proceed to Nineveh is repeated. 

JONAH 255 

Tlie prophet now obeys : lie delivers his 
message, threatening the destruction of the 
city within forty days ; the people of the 
city " believed God, and they proclaimed a 
fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest 
of them unto the least of them. And the 
tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and 
he arose from his throne and laid his robe 
from him and covered him with sackcloth 
and sat in ashes." To all his people he pro- 
claims the same solemn fast, commanding 
them to cry mightily unto God, the God of 
Israel, with hearty repentance, turning every 
one from his evil way and from the violence 
that is in his hands. "Who knoweth," 
says the king, " whether God will not turn 
and repent, and turn away from his fierce 
anger that we perish not? And God saw 
their works that they turned from their evil 
way, and God repented of the evil which he 
had said he would do unto them, and he did 
it not." 

And now Jonah is indignant. This is 
just what I expected, he cries, before I 
started to run away to Tarshish. I knew it 
would turn out just so. " I knew that thou 
art a gracious God, and full of compassion, 
slow to anger and plenteous in mercy, and 


repentest thee of the evil." I knew that if 
these Ninevites turned from their sins they 
would be forgiven, and all my threatening 
would go for nothing. What is the use of 
being the prophet of such a God as this ? 
" Therefore now, Jehovah, take my life 
from me, for it is better for me to die than 
to live." 

Behold now the gentleness of God as this 
writer conceives Him ! To this petulant, 
perverse, narrow-minded servant of his, how 
patient and considerate is his answer. " And 
the Lord said, Doest thou well to be angry ? " 
But Jonah flings himself out of the city 
and makes him a shelter from the heat, and 
sits down in a pout to see what will become 
of the city. And the tender care of the 
gracious God follows the sulking prophet to 
this retreat and spreads a comforting shade 
over him ; and while this refreshment lasts 
his spirit is somewhat mollified; but the 
vine that sheltered him is withered by the 
heat, and Jonah's faith fails with his fainting 
body, and again he cries to God to end his 
days. And now, again, comes the gentle 
rebuke of Jehovah. " Doest thou well to be 
angry for the gourd? And he said, I do 
well to be angry even unto death. And the 

JONAH 257 

Lord said, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, 
for the which thou hast not labored, neither 
madest it grow ; which came up in a night 
and perished in a night : and should I not 
have pity on Nineveh, that great city ; where- 
in are more than sixscore thousand persons 
that cannot discern between their right hand 
and their left hand ; and also much cattle ? ' 

Thus abruptly does the story end. What 
happened to the city, what became of Jonah, 
the author does not care to tell. He has 
delivered his message ; he has thrown his 
flash-light into the darkness of Hebrew big- 
otry and exclusiveness ; and there is no 
need to add another word. 

The suggestion has been made that this 
story is a satire. To us it has the effect of 
satire, but I am not clear that this was its 
intention. To us, the picture of a prophet 
who starts to run away from the presence of 
God, and thinks that he can escape from 
Him by taking a ship at Joppa and paying 
his fare to Tarshish ; who gets angry be- 
cause the people to whom he is sent to preach 
righteousness repent and are forgiven ; who 
cares more for the preservation of a gourd 
that shelters him from the heat of the sun 
than for the life of the people of a great 


city — such a prophet as this is so utterly- 
stupid, ignorant, selfish, unspiritual, that it 
seems nothing short of ridiculous to call him 
a prophet. But it is not at all certain that 
notions like these seemed ridiculous to many 
of those who first read this book ; and it 
may be that they needed to be told, gently 
and seriously, the very truths which this 
prophet seems so feebly to grasp. Let us 
see what are the most important of these 
truths : 

1. Jehovah is not the God of the people 
and the land of Israel ; he is the God of the 
whole earth. As we saw in our study of the 
Book of Judges, this idea was not the origi- 
nal conception of the Hebrews ; they sup- 
posed that every nation had its own god : 
Jehovah was their God, greater than any of 
the others, but not the only deity. Jonah is 
represented by this writer as holding this 
ethnic conception of Jehovah ; the writer 
seeks to show his readers that this is an 
erroneous conception ; that one does not es- 
cape from Jehovah by fleeing from the land 
of Canaan. Probably he meant also to 
teach us that it is not only wrong but su- 
premely foolish to try to evade any duty. 

2. The Ninevites as well as the Israelites 

JONAH 259 

are dear to Jehovah. It is not those alone 
who deem themselves his chosen people for 
whose welfare He cares ; toward the heathen, 
even toward the idolaters He has purposes of 
mercy. " The real design of the narrative," 
says Dr. Driver, "is to teach, in opposition 
to the narrow, exclusive view, that God's 
purposes of grace are not limited to Israel 
alone, but that they are open to the heathen 
as well, if only they abandon their evil 
courses and turn to Him in true penitence. 
. . . The Israelites had suffered so much at 
the hands of foreign oppressors that they 
came to look upon the heathen as their nat- 
ural foes, and were impatient when they saw 
the judgments uttered against them unful- 
filled. Jonah appears as the representative 
of the popular Israelitish creed." ^ This is 
the character which the author has drawn ; 
this is the spirit which he holds up, not to 
ridicule, as I take him, but to judgment and 
condemnation. Our God is not the God of 
the Jews only but of the Gentiles also, he 
declares : all the peoples of the earth are the 
objects of his love and care. " It might 
well be said," says Friedrich Bleek, " that 
the all-embracing fatherly love of God, 

1 Introduction, p. 302. 


which has no respect for person or nation, 
but is moved to mercy on all who turn to 
Him, is brought into view in no book of the 
Old Testament in a way so impressive and 
so nearly approaching the Christian religion 
as it is in this book." ^ 

3. Still another lesson may be learned 
from this book, not only by Jews of the 
fifth century before Christ but by Christians 
of the nineteenth century after Christ. All 
God's threatenings of penalty are conditional. 
To the truly penitent his grace extends. 
What his law wants is not retribution but 
righteousness. His law is honored only 
when it is obeyed. He is not a Shylock, 
stickling for his pound of flesh. That was 
what troubled Jonah. Jonah thought that 
a God who forgave sinners when they re- 
pented, and just because they repented, 
could never manage this universe at all. 
" What will become of the law," he wanted 
to know, " if men are forgiven when they 
repent of their sins? And what will be- 
come of my theology ? And what will be- 
come of me?" That cry has been heard 
from a great many theologians since Jonah's 
day. But Jonah found out that the Judge 

1 Introduction^ vol. ii. p. 186. 

JONAS 261 

of all the earth desires not retribution so 
much as repentance ; and that He finds it 
perfectly safe to forgive and to love those 
who are sorry for their sins and who want to 
do right. The author of the Book of Jonah 
was not the first who found out this truth; 
Jeremiah before him, Ezekiel after him, 
perhaps, made the same discovery : "At 
what instant," says Jehovah by the mouth 
of Jeremiah, " I shall speak concerning a 
nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck 
up and to break down and to destroy it ; if 
that nation, concerning which I have spoken, 
turn from their evil, I will repent of the 
evil that I thought to do unto them." That 
is the substance of the great truth which the 
book of Jonah is written to declare. The 
Jews understood, in part, that repentance 
might avert retribution threatened against 
themselves : but this book shows them that 
the same divine clemency is extended to the 
23eople of every nation. 

And in the last verse of the book there is 
a touch of the divine compassion, more ten- 
der than we find elsewhere in the Hebrew 
Scriptures. And the Lord said, " Should 
not I have pity on Nineveh, that great city; 
whence are more than sixscore thousand 


that cannot discern between their right 
hand and their left hand : and also much 
cattle ? " Think of it, Jonah. There are not 
less than one hundred and twenty thousand 
little children, — innocent children, in that 
city. You want to call down fire from hea- 
ven to consume the city. Perhaps many of 
those who have grown old in sin may de- 
serve that doom, but how about these little 
ones? Do you want to burn them all up 
with the rest ? 

I suppose that Jonah, if he had been the 
average Jew, living five or six centuries be- 
fore Christ, would have been struck fairly 
dumb by this suggestion. That children 
should be punished for the sins of their par- 
ents was a matter of course. They always 
had been ; that was supposed to be in per- 
fect conformity with justice. It was not 
only the Jewish conception ; it was the 
Roman conception as well ; that children 
must suffer with their parents was the uni- 
versal idea ; the sense of individual justice 
which says in the later words of Ezekiel, 
" The son shall not bear the iniquity of 
the father, neither shall the father bear the 
iniquity of the son," had not yet found ex- 
pression. Were not the children of the 

JONAH 263 

Canaanitisli cities exterminated with their 
parents ? Did not the decree of Mordecai 
provide that the children of the Persians 
were to be slaughtered with their fathers 
and mothers ? Did not one of the Psalmists 
sing — 

' ' daughter of Babylon, that art to be destroyed, 
Happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast 

served us : 
Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little 

Against the rock." 

This was the common idea of that day ; 
but upon the mind of the writer of this 
book has dawned a different idea. The 
God whom he has learned to love and trust 
is one who cannot be pleased with the sacri- 
fice of the innocent on the altars of ven- 
geance. Think of it, Jonah ! one hundred 
and twenty thousand innocent babies in 
Nineveh — should not I have pity on them ? 
The God who says this is not the God of 
Joshua, nor of Esther, nor even of Daniel ; 
the writer of this book has caught a glimpse 
not only of the divine compassion but of the 
divine justice far clearer than any which 
was seen by most of the men of his day. 

And his insight goes deeper still. The 
God whom he believes in cares not only for 


little children, he loves also our humbler 
fellow creatures ; their sufferings are matter 
of concern to Him. Not only are there six- 
score thousand little children in that city on 
which Jonah wants to call down fire from 
heaven, " hut also much cattle " / Should 
not I have pity on that city ? Thus it was 
that to this old writer dwelling in the twi- 
light of the centuries before Christ there 
came such a vision of the divine gentleness 
as few in any age have shared. It is his 
voice, heard through the noises of the cruel 
and bloody ages, to which the poet of our 
own time makes response : — 

" sweeter than the marriage feast 
' T is sweeter far to me 
To walk together to the kirk, 
With a goodly company. 

" To walk together to the kirk 
And all together pray, 
While each to his great Father bends, 
Old men, and babes, and loving friends, 
And youths and maidens gay. 

" Farewell, farewell, but this I tell 
To thee, thou wedding guest, 
He prayeth well who loveth well 
Both man and bird and beast ; 

" He prayeth best who loveth best 
All things both great and small, — 
For the dear God who loveth us 
He made and loveth all." 

JONAH 265 

Such is tlie conception of God which has 
been vouchsafed to the author of the Book 
of Jonah. I think that no higher, purer, 
more spiritual conception is found in any 
book of the Old Testament. That any man 
should have seen these great truths at that 
day so clearly is very wonderful. I think 
that he was an inspired writer, — not in- 
spired to write history, but to write a story 
filled with great and worthy thoughts of 
God. " I have read the Book of Jonah," 
says Professor Cornill, " at least a hundred 
times, and I will publicly avow, for I am 
not ashamed of my weakness, that I can- 
not even now take up this marvelous book, 
nay, nor even speak of it, without the tears 
rising to my eyes, and my heart beating 
higher. This apparently trivial book is one 
of the deepest and grandest that ever was 
written, and I should like to say to every 
one who approaches it, ' Take off thy shoes, 
for the place whereon thou standest is holy 
ground.' In this book Israelitish prophecy 
quits the scene of battle as victor, and as 
victor in its severest struggle, that against 
self. In it the prophecy of Israel suc- 
ceeded, as Jeremiah expresses it in a re- 
markable and well-known passage, in free- 


ing the precious from the vile and in finding 
its better self again." ^ 

With this brief study of the Book of 
Jonah our task comes to its close. I will 
venture to hope that to some of those who 
have gone with me, these books are some- 
what less puzzling than they were when we 
began to study them ; that they are less 
mysterious, less magical, perhaps, but no 
less instructive and stimulating. The seri- 
ous trouble in interpreting most of them 
has arisen, as we have seen, from a failure 
to take them for what they are ; from an 
attempt to make history out of fiction, and 
dogma out of drama, and allegory out of 
simple poetry, and prediction out of apoca- 
lypse. Only recognize the truth that we 
have in the Bible several different kinds of 
literature, each of which must be interpreted 
according to its own laws, and a large share 
of our difficulties at once disappears. The 
Bible at once becomes a different kind of 
book from that which we once supposed it 
to be ; but it is certainly not less interest- 
ing, not less inspiring. Start with the 
assumption that every sentence of the Book 
of Job or of the Book of Ecclesiastes is 
God's word, and you have a problem on 

1 The Prophets of Israel^ Chicago ed., p. 171. 

JONAH 267 

your hands in solving which you are liable 
to lose your intellectual integrity and dim 
your moral insight. Accept the truth that 
you are dealing with literature whose forms 
are more or less dramatic, and the solution 
is simple. Find out the true character of 
the book of Daniel and the date at which it 
was written, and most of the enigmas of the 
book are at once explained. Believe with 
President Woolsey that Jonah is a religious 
story, written to set forth those worthier 
ideas of God and his kingdom into which 
the writer had been divinely led, and the 
questions over which men have been dis- 
puting for generations at once pass from 
the field of vision. 

Have not these studies made it plain that 
the facts respecting the true character of 
the Bible are facts which the people need 
to know ? They are known to most Biblical 
scholars of repute ; they are distinctly 
taught in many of our theological semina- 
ries, and the people ought to know them. 
We can afford to tell the truth about the 
Bible. It will not hurt the Bible, and it 
will not hurt the people. After the truth 
is all told it will still be the Book of 
books, dearer to all who love righteousness 
and God than it ever was before. 







022 208 196 8 


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